The Mario Madness: Universal’s latest blockbuster movie brings popular video game to movie theaters

Good versus evil; triumph versus defeat; David versus Goliath. Universal Pictures’ latest blockbuster movie, “The Super Mario Bros.,”  tells these quintessential themes in a classic setting: the Mushroom Kingdom. 

“The Super Mario Bros.” is the latest addition to a recent surge in video game adaptation, including the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie franchise and “The Last of Us” television series. As of April 7, ‘Bbros’ it was tracked as the “biggest movie opening of 2023,” according to Time Magazine. 

Building off the classic Super Mario series — a compilation of various video games that rose to popularity in the 1980s and 1990s — the film follows Mario (Chris Pratt) and his trusty brother Luigi (Charlie Day) as they journey through the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) from the clutches of the villainous turtle, Bowser (Jack Black). 

Going into the theater expecting a typical children’s film, the movie surpassed Palo Alto High School junior Mae Cornwell’s expectations.

“It [the Mario movie] was actually really funny,” Cornwell said. “It was more intricate than I thought it would be.”

While the plot of “Super Mario Bros.” is not super complex, there is still much to appreciate about the film. 

It [the Mario movie] was actually really funny. It was more intricate than I thought it would be.

— Mae Cromwell, junior

Stunning visuals are one of the movie’s biggest strengths. The animation — done by Illumination Studios Paris — is vibrant, colorful and detailed, bringing the familiar world of Mario to life in a way that is both faithful to the games and unique to the movie.

As a movie geared toward younger audiences, the action scenes strike the perfect balance between action and simplicity. The final fight scene is particularly impressive, with Mario and Luigi engaging in a thrilling standoff with Bowser and his army of Koopa Troopas. Indeed, the engrossing animation adds a unique element of drama.  

“[Watching the movie] really made me want to join the [animation design] team because it was so well done,” senior Everett Hentz said. “The art was really good; the adrenaline was there.”

Easter Eggs

One of the main attractions of the movie are “Easter eggs” — minor references to past installments of the game franchise that may be overlooked by casual viewers, but are exciting additions for long-term fans. By including elements like the antique shop from 2011’s Super Mario 3D Land and the Music Box from 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 3 to the pixelated hammer from 1981’s Donkey Kong, the “Super Mario Bros.” movie falls back on its greatest strength: its fanbase. 

“I found the music to be nostalgic,” junior Morris Tang said. “I liked the music and just some throwbacks to the games, like them [Mario and Luigi] being plumbers.”

References to the Mario video game series were also a highlight for Cornwell.

“There [were] a lot of times where they were going down the little Mario Kart runs, like in [the game], and they used the same design thing that [is] used when you choose the little cart thing in the [game],” Cornwell said. “I thought that was really funny.”

[Watching the movie] really made me want to join the [animation design] team because it was so well done. The art was really good; the adrenaline was there. 

— Everett Hentz, senior

Conversely, Tang acknowledges that Easter eggs, while exciting for enthusiastic fans, can potentially isolate new viewers. 

“If you’re a massive Super Mario fan, then yeah [I would recommend watching the movie],” Tang said. “But if you’re a casual [fan], you play it once in a while, then probably not.”

While some elements may be lost on casual viewers, in our experience as people that are relatively new to the franchise, the overall viewing experience is left relatively intact. Because the Easter eggs are not the explicit focus of most scenes, viewers will not be confused by them. 

As with any movie that is based on a pre existing form of media, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was tasked with striking a balance between integrating the past and creating its own narrative. Senior Everett Hentz appreciated this contemporary take on the classic series. 

“[The] Movie is better; it’s just newer,” Hentz said. “The game is kind of old, a little bit old school. The movie is just better.”


While the animation and Easter eggs are exciting features, one of the movie’s few weaknesses is the plot, which is relatively straightforward and predictable. Tang was similarly unimpressed by the storyline and writing. 

“I felt that the movie was…a little bit scripted…it did not feel real,” Tang said. “Jack Black being Bowser made it worse because I know Jack Black [as] being really funny. But for me, his jokes sounded really scripted.”

I felt that the movie was…a little bit scripted…it did not feel real. Jack Black being Bowser made it worse because I know Jack Black [as] being really funny. But for me, his jokes sounded really scripted.

— Morris Tang, junior

While the movie primarily takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom, the beginning and ultimate fight scene are set in an animated Brooklyn. The transition from the Kingdom, which most fans of the game are familiar with, to a real life city, was slightly confusing and off putting, especially given that no justification was ever given for the choice of location. 

Beyond a simple plot and the seemingly random inclusion of Brooklyn lies an intricately constructed film. Overall, whether you are a lifetime Mario fan, a fan of lighthearted comedies or just looking for a way to spend your Friday night, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has something for you to enjoy.