As a fan of Mario since the 80s, it’s fantastic to finally see The Super Mario Bros Movie; it’s only the second attempt to bring Nintendo’s mascot and flagship character to the big screen – and it could scarcely be any more faithful or reverential to the source material, in stark contrast to the 1993 live action adaptation.

Mario and his brother Luigi are ambitious, optimistic yet somewhat unsuccessful plumbers looking for a big win. When an unprecedented flood hits in the vicinity of their neighbourhood, they seize the opportunity to make themselves useful and score their struggling business some publicity in the process. Yet there’s a secret hidden under New York City that will change their lives forever.

There’s no way of saying this without sounding like an absolute grouch and a killjoy, but I didn’t hugely enjoy The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

It’s not that there’s any issue with the animation – which is absolutely beautiful, boldly coloured and full of glorious touches – or even the voice acting; everyone fits their roles well, with even the much maligned Chris Pratt doing well in his role (an early scene establishes why Mario doesn’t sound like he does in the video game, which is good enough for me).

This is something I’ve seen people complain about, but I’ve also seen it dismissed by gamers who are taking any criticism to heart: the plot really is too thin to sustain interest even over the relatively brief and brisk 90 minute run time of the film.

As has been repeatedly pointed out, Mario games are not renowned for their plots, often relying on wafer thin excuses to get Mario jumping and stomping in, around and even outside the Mushroom Kingdom.

Yet the games have boundless invention and ideas relentlessly thrown the player’s way; interacting with the game worlds is an absolute joy.

Though that’s exactly the feel the filmmakers go for here, with a bewildering amount of references, callbacks, characters and settings featuring in the film, it just feels as if we’re hurtled from one action set piece to another with little rhyme or reason.

One minute we’re in Donkey Kong’s jungle, the next we’re on the Rainbow Road in Mario Karts; though there’s an undeniable thrill in seeing such familiar game elements rendered so beautifully and with such a clear passion for the source material, there’s only so many times this can happen before it just starts to feel like empty fan service.

It doesn’t help that much of the humour falls flat; it’s hard to criticise the film for its good natured, light comedy, but so much of it is just Illumination-lite, feeling like gentler, less anarchic riffs on the increasingly tired Despicable Me/Minions stuff the studio seems content to churn out. The seemingly endless ‘Mamma Mia’ slow motion shots, for example – did we really need so many of those?

There’s also an obvious pandering to nostalgia with the use of 80s pop music too; though the score is phenomenal – utilizing an incredible amount of Koji Kondo’s musical motifs from the games – tracks such as A-Ha’s iconic Take On Me (in the Mario Kart sequence, of all things) or AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, just feel out of place and there to get a quick bit of middle aged toe tapping going on.

Despite all of this, I can’t deny the thrill of seeing Mario on screen; in particular stuff like the initial shot of Peach’s castle, the fantastic use of the old Super Mario Bros Super Show theme or the cleverly framed 2.5D platforming, not to mention the endless parade of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them easter eggs, dotted throughout the film’s wonderfully detailed scenes.

It’s fun, for sure, but it could definitely have done with a stronger premise and less reliance on hitting the nostalgia buttons during nearly every second of its runtime.

It’s just about perfect as an adaptation of the characters and their universe, but as a film it does fall a little short.

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