“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” isn’t looking like a smash with the critics.
The Nintendo-based film, by Universal and Illumination, has been lauded for its stunning visuals, but has failed to charm reviewers. As of Wednesday afternoon, it earned a 54% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 122 reviews, a “rotten” score.
Thinly plotted, the feature relies heavily on sequences pulled directly from the video games its based on and skips out on character development, according to critics. They also lamented what they deemed unfunny jokes and a voice cast that seemed to be phoning it in. That is, for the exception of Jack Black, who voices the villainous Bowser.
Audiences, on the other hand, have so far responded well to the film, with more than 100 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes leading to a 98% audience score. And box office analysts don’t foresee poor critical reviews deterring moviegoers, particularly families, from venturing to the cinema to see ”The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”
The film is expected to become the highest-opening video game adaption at the domestic box office, surpassing “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” which snared $72 million during its debut last year.
At present, forecasts call for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” to generate more than $100 million over Friday, Saturday and Sunday — and more than $150 million for the full five-day spread starting Wednesday, according to BoxOffice.com. Universal was more bearish, calling for $100 million to $110 million at the domestic box office through the 5-day holiday weekend.
Here’s what critics thought of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”:
Nicholas Barber, BBC
The film’s plot centers on Mario and Luigi, brothers from Brooklyn who want to start their own independent plumbing business, much to the chagrin of their disapproving father.
Audiences get a brief taste of what it would have been like to have Chris Pratt (Mario) and Charlie Day (Luigi) preform exaggerated Italian accents as part of an over-the-top TV advertisement for their business. The movie also uses this ad to explain why Mario and Luigi wear giant white gloves.
The movie kicks into gear when “one night the brothers investigate a flood, which is never explained, and find a magical pipe, which is also never explained,” wrote Nicholas Barber in his review of the film for BBC. “The pipe zaps them both to another planet, or possibly another universe. That’s never explained, either.”
The brothers are separated, with Mario landing in the fairy-tale Mushroom Kingdom where he meets Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) and Luigi falling into the lap of the monstrous Bowser, who is set on overtaking the Mushroom Kingdom and marrying Peach.
“The trouble starts when Mario is suddenly surrounded by floating bricks, giant gold coins, ‘Power Up’ cubes, and burbling electronic sound effects, which only make sense in the context of a video game,” Barber said. “It becomes clear at this stage that the directors have given up on making a cartoon which anyone might enjoy, and have concentrated instead on piling on references for the benefit of the games’ devoted fans.”
Barber said screenwriter Matthew Fogel (“Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part”) did an efficient job of linking the various video game references, “but the film has an astonishing lack of jokes, twists, memorable lines, exhilarating stunts, touching emotional moments, and anything else that might engage any viewer who isn’t playing spot-the-allusion.”
Radheyan Simonpillai, Globe and Mail
Long before critics sat down to watch “Super Mario Bros.,” there was a big question about the film’s top-billed voice actor — Chris Pratt.
Fans wondered early on if Pratt would attempt the “it’s-a-me” accent, and expressed mixed opinions when producers said he wouldn’t. Half of the internet seemed relieved and the other half suddenly became concerned about how the iconic Mario would sound on the big screen.
At the end of the day, Radheyan Simonpillai of Globe and Mail, writes that “the internet was right. Chris Pratt is all wrong as the title character.
“The problem here isn’t that Pratt can’t emulate the helium-pitched ‘it’s-a me’ and ‘let’s-a go’ catchphrases, which Charles Martinet made iconic in the video games,” Simonpillai explained. “It’s that Pratt takes a very distinct character – a short mustachioed plumber in overalls who kicks around turtle shells is anything but average – and gives yet another bland and deflating stock-in-trade performance, which we’re familiar with from multiple Guardians of the Galaxy and Lego movies.”
Simonpillai called Pratt’s voice acting “bland and deflating,” noting that only Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong and Black as Bowser leave an impression on audiences.
He also called the storytelling “8-bit” — as many critics did in their jabs at the film — making a reference to the two-dimensional animation of the original Mario games.
“I wonder whether the filmmakers were too timid to draw outside the lines with this copyright protected material, lest they end up with something like the disastrous live-action 1993 movie, ’Super Mario Bros.,'” he said.
A.A. Dowd, Chron
“The ‘Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is such a brightly spiffy product, and so initially pleasing to gawk at, that it takes a moment to realize that it’s not much of a movie at all,” wrote A.A. Dowd in his review of the film. “It’s more like glorified memorabilia, throwing the shiniest animation money can buy at a total absence of imagination.”
Dowd noted, like many other critics, that the animated film is a visual feast, “lovingly textured.”
“But the longest of long jumps couldn’t clear the chasm separating the time and care the animators put into their work here and the effort of the writing it’s serving,” he said.
Storywise, Dowd questioned why Princess Peach, no longer portrayed as a damsel in distress, would take time to set up a tutorial-style montage for Mario to jump across iconic bricks while the looming threat of Bowser hangs over the Mushroom Kingdom.
“Maybe it’s silly to complain about storytelling in an adaptation of a run-and-jump platformer,” he mused.
“But ’The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ has all the narrative inspiration of a stockholders presentation; it’s hard to shake the impression that it’s been written by checklist, with more Easter eggs than plot points and more dopey needle drops … than jokes.”
He noted that scenes between Mario and other characters seemed like they were written at the end of production and then hastily inserted into the movie.
“All that pristine computer animation is akin to polishing … well, what Mario finds in pipes during his day job,” he said.
Read the full review from Chron.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes and is the distributor of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”