Plumbing the depths (CREDIT: Nintendo and Universal Studios)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Anya-Taylor Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan Michael-Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Charles Martinet, Kevin Michael Richardson

Directors: Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Rating: PG for Scrapes and Scuffles That Don’t Leave a Mark

Release Date: April 5, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: The Mario brothers are ready to take their plumbing business to the next level! Better watch out for those pipes, though. Based on the long-running series of Nintendo video games, the gang’s all here in the faithfully colorful Super Mario Bros. Movie. Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) find themselves suddenly sucked into a fantastical kingdom where wooden blocks hold the promise of physical transformation. They team up with Princess Peach (Anya-Taylor Joy) to defeat the over-the-top villainous Bowser (Jack Black), while a mushroom creature (Keegan Michael-Key) and a goofy gorilla (Seth Rogen) round out the core crew.

What Made an Impression?: Mario and Luigi have of course made it onto the big screen before, though 1993’s live-action Super Mario Bros. was widely considered an unmitigated disaster. Bizarrely enough, this latest cinematic adventure keeps the same basic skeleton, as the Mario brothers drive around Brooklyn in their plumbing van, only to then find themselves in the middle of an interdimensional conflict. But beyond that shared setup, it’s a vastly different journey this time. The 1993 version isn’t exactly a misunderstood classic, but it is unlike pretty much anything else that came before or after. Meanwhile, this computer-animated update is basically a series of right-down-the-middle cutscenes.

It’s harmless and amusing in spots, but stripped of way too much personality. It all starts with the voice of the stocky fellow at the center. Chris Pratt has some useful tools in his skill set, but bringing to life an iconically cartoonish ball of energy is not one of them. There’s even a joke about how he sounds nothing like the Mario of the video games! Now look, Bob Hoskins didn’t exactly sound like classic Mario either, but he brought something undeniably unique. Pratt’s mandate, meanwhile, appears to be to turn him into Bland Everyman Hero.

At least everyone else is able to stretch and have some fun. Black in particular has a blast, as he transforms Bowser into the dragon-turtle version of Tenacious D, while Fred Armisen’s Cranky Kong sounds just like his impression of Anna Nicole Smith trial judge Larry Seidlin. There are also plenty of reliable needle drops, though I’m not sure some of them have anything to do with Mario. (“Take on Me,” anyone?) Ultimately, my favorite part of The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the Illumination logo at the beginning that features a Minion attempting to drive a go-kart, which led me to realize that it’s high time to incorporate those little yellow fellas into the Nintendo universe.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is Recommended If You Like: Bright colors and simple plots

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Power Ups