Life! Movies

With ‘superstars’ in tow, Super Mario jumps to the big screen in eye-candy fashion

Mario (Chris Pratt) and Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) —PHOTOS COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES INTERNATIONAL

Mario (Chris Pratt) and Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) —PHOTOS COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES INTERNATIONAL

Jack Black couldn’t have said it better when asked in a recent press con how he would describe the blockbuster animated film “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” where he plays the titular character’s lovesick nemesis, Bowser.

“It’s exciting, hilarious, romantic, thrilling, psychedelic and nostalgic—and it’s going to blow your mind,” the comedian quipped. “This movie is going to be rad no matter where you see it, but I highly recommend that you check it out on the big screen because the worlds you see, like the Mushroom Kingdom, are so beautiful.”

And we couldn’t agree more. Early this week, we saw Universal Pictures International’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” in 3D with rechargeable glasses at a special screening and felt as if we were thrust into a spectacular VR (virtual reality) environment.

The fast-paced, gorgeously realized animated film, which opens in Philippine cinemas on Wednesday, transported us to the eight worlds that have since expanded from the game’s formative years in the mid-‘80s.

With a whopping $378 million global haul on its opening week, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” now prides itself with the biggest video-game adaptation opening of all time—and that’s no easy feat.

It is in this alternate reality hidden beyond a Warp Pipe that we soon witness the power struggle involving plumber Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt), his younger twin brother Luigi (Charlie Day), the Mushroom Kingdom’s Princess Peach Toadstool (Anya Taylor-Joy), the Jungle Kingdom’s Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen), and Bowser (Jack Black), the Dark Lands’ lovestruck, power-hungry king of the Koopas.

It’s been a while since we last held a game console, but we still remember how much time we had spent perfecting techniques that allowed us to “stay alive.” As Mario, we learned to utilize “power-ups”—like the Super Mushroom, the Super Star and the Fire Flower—to defy the odds.

Along the way, the role-playing game taught us persistence, precision and the value of patience as a way to move on to succeeding levels, each of them armed with a higher degree of difficulty. You’ll feel the same way about the movie codirected by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

While we caution viewers from overthinking and remind them to manage their expectations for the film’s straightforward tale of Brooklyn-based plumbers struggling to find their place in the sun, it is a far cry from the franchise’s failed 1993 live-action iteration starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo.

This time, we’re introduced to a backstory that sees the Italian-American brothers quitting their jobs to start their own plumbing business as they seek their father’s elusive approval. But when Luigi is sucked into a Warp Pipe and finds himself stuck in the Dark Lands, Mario comes rushing to his brother’s rescue.

After Mario meets Princess Peach in the Mushroom Kingdom, he quickly realizes he needs all the magic he can get to rescue his brother and save a princess in peril. The stakes get higher when Bowser, who has just stolen a Super Star, threatens to destroy the Mushroom Kingdom if Princess Peach refuses to marry him.

Mario must convince Donkey Kong and his dad to join forces with him and the princess’ timid army to even the odds. But are their efforts good enough to save Luigi and put a stop to Bowser’s nefarious plans? With the world in danger, can Luigi find the courage to finally step out of his older brother’s shadow?

Scene from “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

Scene from “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

An emotional connection

Like Jack, Chris Pratt was thrilled to bring the game’s characters to life. The actor, who admitted crying upon seeing the movie’s finished product, mused, “It is a fantastic take on the Super Mario universe. It’s funny, beautiful and has a lot of heart.

“I was one of the hundreds of millions of people who have played it. I was 9 years old when we got the Nintendo Entertainment System at home, and I also used to play the arcade game at a dry cleaner by my house—and I was absolutely obsessed!”

Part of that “obsession” was due to the game’s irresistible lure, Chris said: “I believed in magic as a young person, and I still do. And there certainly was magic in this game. A quarter was a lot of money for me when I was a kid because we were pretty broke most of the time. But if I found a quarter or if I could scratch together two dimes and a nickel, I was right off to play ‘Mario.’ Everyone’s got that nostalgic moment in their childhood that they hold on to—and, for me, playing Mario is one of them.”

Asked to describe his character, Chris said, “Mario is a wide-eyed dreamer who’s devoted to his brother and his family, and that’s also me. I was a bit of a wide-eyed dreamer myself, very close to my own brother, although back in the day, I was more like Luigi. But I’m Mario now.

“I like Mario because, well, who doesn’t love a guy who never gives up? And his loyalty to his brother, his desire to please his father, and the idea that he wants to do something bigger than what he’s been doing are very relatable aspects of his personality that drew me to the character.

“There are many elements of Mario that people will identify with, whether it’s his sense of justice or his willingness to keep trying, feeling like the little guy that got an unfair shake.”

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt

Bring Princess Peach to life

Another aspect of the story that Chris found appealing is Anya Taylor-Joy’s depiction of Princess Peach. “Peach is pretty much a total badass, and she has an entire army,” he noted. “She’s incredibly agile and a great driver. Princess Peach is just flawless—which is sort of annoying, to be honest (laughs).”

Anya herself was drawn to the project because she said she loved how “on board everybody was for a new version of Princess Peach,” who is no damsel in distress in her big-screen incarnation.

“Princess Peach is incredibly iconic, and I wanted to bring her into this century by making her a little bit more capable,” Anya pointed out. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to play a character that’s loved by so many people, but I was also excited to have the chance to flesh her out and let her be the hero of her own story.

“She redefines what it means to be a princess because she’s not weak or helpless… she isn’t looking for anyone to save her. Princess Peach is an incredibly driven leader who is fearless, determined, capable and has so much heart. After I watched the film, I was inspired by her and thought, ‘I want to be more like Princess Peach!’”

When asked what she thought set Princess Peach apart from other animated princesses, Anya said, “Princess Peach is the master of her own fate. She grabs the reins and takes control. Peach is very determined and goes headfirst into battle.”

For his part, Charlie said he enjoyed seeing Luigi’s transformative journey. “When we meet Luigi, he’s very cautious about some risks that Mario is willing to take,” he said. “But being the loyal brother that he is, Luigi follows Mario down the literal and figurative pipe. And after a harrowing experience, we see a slightly braver and more confident Luigi.”

How does Charlie relate to Luigi?

“I think I’m pretty good at plumbing, so we definitely have that in common (laughs),” he said. “And I also love Italian food. He’s a big sweetheart, and it’s nice to play a good guy sometimes. Bad guys are also fun to play, but Luigi just has a big heart. He is extremely loyal, and I feel we are alike in that, too.”

Speaking of bad guys, Jack, who started playing Nintendo in the ‘80s when he stumbled upon “Donkey Kong” in the arcade at age 13, said he had a grand time portraying Bowser.

He asserted, “Bowser is one of the most iconic villains in the entire history of video games! Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to bring him to the silver screen? He’s terrifying, powerful and filled with insecurities. That makes him a great character to explore.“But while he’s evil, what’s funny about him is that he’s sensitive and insecure, too. You don’t think of this big fire-breathing monster also as being romantic. He falls in love and wants a fairy tale wedding with Princess Peach, but it’s unrequited—which only drives him more insane with love. That juxtaposition is funny.”

Asked how he relates to Bowser, Jack said, “Well, it would be embarrassing to admit that I am in any way like Bowser. But I think everyone has a little Bowser inside them: a little anger, a little rage.

“Whenever you’re driving down the road and want to yell at someone in traffic, that’s your Bowser coming out. Whenever you are jealous or want something that someone else has, that’s Bowser. Whenever you find the darkest parts of your soul, you find Bowser, because he hides in the shadows. I dug deep to find my inner Bowser.”

TAGS: Mario, Super
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