The Super Mario Bros Movie jumps into movie theatres today (April 5), and while the animated movie is expected to be a surefire hit with families this Easter, the general reception from critics has been less than super.
At the time of writing, The Super Mario Bros Movie has pulled a very underwhelming 54% from 100 write-ups on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. If you filter by Top Critics the score drops even lower to 48% from 27 reviews. Those scores are low enough that the film has been branded with an unwanted “rotten” badge.
At least Nintendo and can comfort itself with the knowledge that it’s a significantly higher score than Mario’s last big-screen outing. Back in 1993, the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie scored an abysmal 29% and its failure is often credited as the reason that it’s taken three decades for the iconic plumber to make another appearance at movie theaters.
Even so, when compared to rival video game mascots that have made the transition to feature films, Mario is failing to stack up. As you can see from the chart below, The Super Mario Bros Movie has a lower RT score than both Sonic the Hedgehog movies as well as Detective Pikachu. But at least it’s outpacing the first Angry Birds movie.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Release year||Critics score||Audience score|
|The Angry Birds Movie||2016||43%||46%|
|Pokémon Detective Pikachu||2019||68%||79%|
|The Angry Birds Movie 2||2019||73%||84%|
|Sonic the Hedgehog||2020||64%||93%|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 2||2022||69%||96%|
|The Super Mario Bros Movie||2023||54%||98%|
Not quite a super movie experience
Kimberley Jones of the Austin Chronicle writes, “Whatever fan-service thrills we might get from seeing those familiar pneumatic pipes and Bullet Bills retrofitted for the big screen fall away fast when there’s nothing else to prop the thing up.”
And Jones was far from the only critic who feels that The Super Mario Bros Movie is an overall shallow experience. Clarisse Loughrey of the Independent notes that while the “source material has been history devoid of plot” viewers should still be allowed to “demand a little more than mere competency.”
One of the more cutting reviews came from the BBC’s Nicholas Barber who said, “Any adults accompanying those children may wish they were watching the Hoskins and Leguizamo film instead.” And considering the 1993 movie's legacy, as noted above, that is certainly a stinging criticism. Barber also branded the flick as “lazy and for fans only.”
The news that Chris Pratt would voice Mario was met with a large degree of incredulity by the internet last year. And while many critics feel that Pratt is ultimately fine in the role, Radheyan Simonpillai of The Globe and Mail wasn’t sold on the casting decision: “The internet was right. Chris Pratt is all wrong as the title character."
But it’s not all bad
If there’s one element of the film that critics seem to almost universally agree is exceptional, it’s the animation quality. Crafted by Illumination Entertainment, the world of Mario has been brought to life in stunning detail here, and that’s not the only aspect that some critics enjoyed either.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times notes that the ending is focused on “setting up further adventures to come” and went on to declare “The Super Mario Bros is a solid kickoff to a new chapter in this enduring, multi-platform franchise.” This seems like a positive sign for a potential Super Mario Bros Movie 2.
Entertainment Weekly’s Christian Holub was clearly impressed with the family-friendly feature, saying “It's all quite fun, with a good sense of humor and a consistent computer-animated aesthetic — plus, at 90 minutes including credits, it's short, sweet, and over before anything can get annoying.
One of the most positive reviews came from Owen Gleiberman of Variety who writes that “its ingenuity is infectious. You don’t have to be a Mario fan to respond to it, but the film is going to remind the millions who are why they call it a joystick.”
Do Mario’s rotten reviews matter?
Dedicated Nintendo fans were probably hoping for a slightly more positive critical consensus, but The Super Mario Bros Movie feels like a feature that falls squarely into the category of movies that are review-proof. Even without universally glowing reviews, this movie is almost guaranteed to score a whole truckload of gold coins at the global box office.
Variety reports that it's aiming for a debut of $125 million in North America across its first five days of release. That would make it the largest opening weekend debut of the year so far, though Mario will have had five days to make bank rather than the traditional three. Globally, Deadline suggests The Super Mario Bros Movie is on track for an opening bow of more than $225 million, which would be another record figure for 2023 to date.
The film’s middling reviews seem unlikely to make a noticeable dent in its box office taking, Plus, many critics have noted that the movie is stuffed full of easter eggs and references that gamers are sure to love picking out. So even if the Super Marios Bros Movie isn’t a cinematic masterpiece, it still seems like a flick that Nintendo fans won’t want to miss. Stay tuned for Tom's Guide's review of The Super Mario Bros Movie, which is coming very soon.