NOTE: The following review will eventually be moved to an updated 'Arcade' page.
I, like so many others, was introduced to video games through Mario sometime in the mid-late 80s. Soon enough, my brother and I got our own NES for Christmas one year in the early 90s along with our own copy of 'Mario 3', and it was about as hard to put down as one might imagine. This got me really into the Mario franchise enough to start collecting Mario merchandise, dress up as him for Halloween, and develop a bit of an addiction to the games on NES with the 'Bros' series, Gameboy with the 'Land' series and SNES with the 'World' and 'RPG' games.
I was so into 'Super Mario Bros.' that I somewhat shamefully admit to really enjoying the 1993 movie just because of the title. It was one of those "something feels off, but this is the best they'll ever do" situations. Eventually, I did put those games down for a while, skipping everything from 'N64' forward, to the point that the next Nintendo system I'd get would be the Switch - and after grabbing '3D All-Stars', 'Odyssey' and '3D World', it's plain to see that my love of these games never went away, it just lied dormant. So of course when I saw the trailer for a 'Mario' movie that actually looked like it might be Mario-related instead of whatever the hell '93 gave us, I was pretty damn excited from the get-go.
Two Brooklyn-based brothers, Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) have recently started their own business; The Super Mario Bros. Plumbing Service, complete with its own commercial that utilizes the old theme from the 'Super Mario Bros. Super Show' (which is pure, nostalgic cheese at its finest). People kind of poke fun at them and put down their silly *ahem* "pipedream", until a significant manhole leak on the news makes Mario spring into action to prove himself, dragging Luigi with him. While down in the sewers and trying to shut off a valve, the two brothers stumble into a hidden, mysterious room where they find a mysterious pipe that sucks them both in.
This "warp pipe" ends up ultimately separating the two brothers, plopping Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom, and Luigi in the Dark Lands. In the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario befriends a feisty mushroom man named Toad (Keegan-Michael Key). Upon asking Toad to help him find Luigi, Toad takes Mario to the castle of Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) who they, thank God, made a badass character for this movie. She is very well-known for being one of the most helpless damsels in distress in, not even gaming history, just history in general. So this was a very welcome change from the source material.
In the meantime, Luigi is captured and imprisoned by Bowser, King of the Koopas (Jack Black). Bowser seeks to marry Princess Peach and rule the kingdoms of their world side-by-side, using a Super Star for power. However, he does learn of Mario's existence, and sees him as a threat, and if Peach says "no" to his proposal, Bowser will lay the Mushroom Kingdom to waste. Now, it's up to Mario, Peach, Toad, and a handful of helpers to save the Mushroom Kingdom as well as Mario's brother. Key characters who join the quest are the Kongs, who mainly include Donkey (Seth Rogan) and Cranky (Fred Armisen).
Although I was a touch let-down by the lack of various characters I wanted to see, it's important for me to note that this universe is huge, and a lot of omissions were probably for the best. Otherwise, it's actually hard for me not to give this movie a lot of praise for further prooving my theory about video game movies getting their due. I absolutely loved that the story was so simple and almost childish, just because that's basically what Mario games were. Princess gets kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario and Luigi go on an epic quest to rescue her. That's all there was to them. So this is definitely where that kind of thing works.
Otherwise, for any real Mario fan, there are Easter Eggs all over this movie. Enough to make me want to watch it a second time. Some of the music, for example, is lifted from a variety of games in the 'Mario' and 'DK Country' libraries. I really enjoyed some of the subtle changes, like making Luigi the one they have to rescue and making Peach more of a hero. With games like 'Luigi's Mansion', it makes sense. This is a movie that adopts aspects of a bunch of games including 'Smash Bros' and 'Mario Kart' among what I've mentioned, and it all comes together to make one great, harmless fun movie that makes me want to see more. I may be a bit biased here, but for the big Mario fans out there, I have to say, this is a real treat!