Wahoo! More than five years after it was first announced, The Super Mario Bros. Movie has leapt into theaters worldwide, shining the Hollywood spotlight on gaming’s most famous plumber.
The new film represents a collaboration between Nintendo and Universal Pictures’ Illumination Entertainment, the animation house behind the Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets franchises. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto was closely involved in the creative process, working alongside Illumination founder Chris Meledandri as a co-producer to ensure the movie stayed true to the spirit of the games.
In the lushly 3D animated film, Mario and his brother Luigi find themselves transported from their New York City home to the magical Mushroom Kingdom. When the evil Bowser, king of the Koopas, kidnaps Luigi and sets out to destroy the Kingdom, Mario must team up with his new friends Princess Peach and Toad to save the day.
To bring the cast of characters to life, Illumination looked to some big-name talent. Given that Mario speaks quite a bit more in the film than he does in the games, the studio tapped Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) to bring some leading-man charm—though Mario’s long-time voice actor in the games, Charles Martinet, does appear in a cameo role in the film. Princess Peach is voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, The Menu), Luigi by Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and Toad by Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele).
One big surprise of The Super Mario Bros. Movie is just how broadly Illumination has adapted the source material. The film draws expansively on the history of the games, going beyond a basic Mushroom Kingdom adventure. There are nods to the spin-off racing series Mario Kart, including a splashy action scene set on the iconic Rainbow Road track, with Mario hurling shells at other racers. There’s even an appearance from Donkey Kong, voiced in the movie by Seth Rogen (Superbad, Pineapple Express). After all, Mario made his very first gaming appearance in the 1981 arcade classic Donkey Kong (though technically speaking, the modern DK is that original big ape’s grandson).
With a family-friendly, accessible vibe, gorgeous visuals that put a slightly different spin on the worlds and characters of the game, and plenty of nods that fans of the source material will appreciate, The Super Mario Bros. Movie could well mark the start of a monumental new chapter for Nintendo on the silver screen.