There is a Super Mario Bros film hitting cinemas this week, and the question on everyone’s lips seems to be: will it ruin my childhood? I hope not! But childhood destroying or not (Chris Pratt reckons you’re safe, but he would say that), the critical response is surprisingly varied, neither damning nor celebratory, though it is somewhat split between specialist games media thinking it’s pretty good, and everyone else thinking it’s a typical example of a videogame movie adaptation. In other words, pretty shit.
Take The Guardian for instance, which describes the Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic-directed romp as “tedious and flat in all senses”, while also managing to reference Dostoevsky. Or The Independent, which bears the gloriously cruel headline: “Chris Pratt’s generic heroism matches adaptation’s comfortable mediocrity”. The latter review observes that the film might as well have been written by an algorithm, though does begrudgingly admit that the “nods to Mario lore” (easter eggs, in other words) are abundant and “charmingly staged”.
The BBC review is surprisingly bereft of scathing one-liners, but does offer some interesting observations. “The film-makers are obviously so sure that they have a can’t-fail franchise on their hands that they haven’t even bothered with world-building,” it reads, going on to deconstruct an inconsistency in Princess Peach’s origin story. The Associated Press meanwhile calls it “an hour and a half’s worth of superlative marketing”, and Mashable agrees that it feels like marketing in its negative appraisal: “it feels like one long commercial.”
Non-gaming media does have a handful of positive responses. Entertainment Weekly writes, somewhat unconvincingly, that it’s all “quite fun”, while also praising its shortness. Variety is less reserved, calling its ingenuity “infectious”, while also finding the space to helpfully remind us that videogames are “essentially computer fantasies that you control”.
What does the specialist gaming media think? Our sibling site GamesRadar gave it three stars out of five, assuring Mario fanatics that “there’s plenty of ‘yahoos’ and ‘let’s-a goes’ embedded in the film’s meticulously detailed world-building.” That’s enough for me. IGN gave it a rating of eight out of 10, despite pointing out its “paint-by-numbers plot”. Thankfully, it’s “a Mario movie that anyone [can] enjoy,” which absolves all sins.
GameSpot is pissed off that Yoshi isn’t in the movie, which is fair enough. But the review over there is also positive, even going so far as to note that “Chris Pratt doesn’t ruin the movie”. Polygon‘s lukewarm review describes it as “a sermon for the Nintendo faithful and their children, and few others”.
So unless it would take a Citizen Kane-rivalling Mario adaptation to secure the safety of your childhood, the prognosis is probably a positive one. It ain’t The Last of Us, of course, but the general vibe seems to be: if you love Mario you’ll probably love this. The Super Mario Bros Movie hits cinemas on April 5.