The Super Mario Bros. Movie was released for preview screenings on Tuesday, and the critics have now spoken, though without much of a consensus.
The computer-animated family adventure film, inspired by the iconic Nintendo video game characters of the same name, divided critics, and the film currently has a 55 percent rotten score from critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes.
The number drops even further to 50 percent when only the most high-profile critics are selected from numerous reviews. Notably, reviews were embargoed until the day of release, which is a common tactic with films that studios thing will receive poor reviews, though they can be less influential with a big-budget property that is well known among moviegoers.
While many critics saluted The Super Mario Bros. movie for its kaleidoscopic visuals and strong animation, other singled out a thin story that didn’t do enough to support the classic character.
Mario fans complained incessantly about Chris Pratt’s casting after it was first announced, as he isn’t the first person who came to mind to play an Italian plumber, though he mostly received mild praise from reviewers.
The reviews are in: Critics weighed in on The Super Mario Bros. Movie on Tuesday, with several praising its visuals and defending Chris Pratt, while others complained about its paper-thin story
Highs and lows: The film currently holds a 54 percent rotten score from Rotten Tomatoes, indicating that the movie polarized critics
Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman praised the film for being its ‘wholesome prankish druggy chameleonic video-game buzz,’ and he disagreed with others who found the story to be slight.
He praised Jack Black’s ‘stupendous’ performance as the villain Bowser, and he wrote that the film was a welcome antidote to the cliches that had developed in digital animation, even among Pixar films in recent years.
Frank Scheck gave a similarly positive review for The Hollywood Reporter, and he said that the movie felt like a ‘labor of love,’ rather than cash in.
He also praised Black, writing that his voice performance ‘lifts the film to another level.’
However, he was mildly critical of the screenplay — ‘The plot is as basic as can be, and character development is clearly not a priority’ — though he suggest that its brief 90-minute runtime wouldn’t test the patience of young viewers.
But The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was disappointed in the film, which he awarded only two stars out of five.
He called The Super Mario Bros. Movie ‘tedious and flat in all senses,’ and he compared it to the critically reviled live-action adaptation from 1993, which starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo.
Bradshaw thought the mimicking of the original game’s 2D gameplay wore out its welcome quickly, and he lamented that the film had none of the irreverent humor or irony of the Lego Movies, despite screenwriter Matthew Fogel having worked on the second film in that series.
Trippy: Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman praised the film for being its ‘wholesome prankish druggy chameleonic video-game buzz,’ and he disagreed with others who found the story to be slight
Standout star: Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter praised Jack Black as Bowser, writing that his voice performance ‘lifts the film to another level’
No thanks: Robbie Collin of The Telegraph would have preferred to watch the failed 1993 live-action adaptation, which was at least a ‘fascinating failure,’ in his estimation
Others critics suggested that the film lacked much humor to appeal to adults in order to make it broad enough to appease children.
Robbie Collin of The Telegraph was similarly disappointed, and he gave it only one out of five stars.
Collin also mentioned the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film, though he said he would have preferred to watch that bomb, which was at least a ‘fascinating failure,’ in his estimation.
He was disappointed with the film visuals, which didn’t improve significantly over the video game.
‘Just recreating [the video game visuals] in (surprisingly second-rate) CG while shouting ‘remember this?’ is, moronically and relentlessly, all we get,’ Collin wrote.
The Wrap’s Lex Briscuso published a positive review calling The Super Mario Bros. Movie ‘endlessly charming’ while praising its ‘rich and full’ animated worlds.
Briscuso said Pratt was better than expected with his ‘modernized, slightly subdued version of a stereotypical Brooklyn accent that comes off natural and inoffensive, a logical portrayal of the Mario character.’
For The Atlantic, David Sims gave the movie a positive review, writing that the directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic ‘seem focused on re-creating the fun of the original rather than subverting it.’
However, he noted that the ‘narrative provides just the loosest nudges from scene to scene,’ and he wrote that Pratt’s dialogue mostly dries up as the film’s action heats up.
Loved it: The Wrap ‘s Lex Briscuso published a positive review calling The Super Mario Bros. Movie ‘endlessly charming’ while praising its ‘rich and full’ animated worlds
True to the game: For The Atlantic , David Sims gave the movie a positive review, writing that the directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic ‘seem focused on re-creating the fun of the original rather than subverting it’
Digging the references: The Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper gave the movie three out of four stars and wrote that he was a fan of the many Easter eggs to the original video game
The Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper gave the movie three out of four stars and wrote that he was a fan of the many Easter eggs to the original video game.
He reserved some praise for the comedic stylings of Fred Armisen and Seth Rogen, who voiced Cranky Kong and Donkey Kong, respectively.
Unlike other critics, he suggested adult viewers might appreciate some of the trippy visuals, which resembled a mushroom trip.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is currently in wide release.
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