Charles Merritt suggests the latest Mario Bros movie asks some questions about attention spans

Super Mario

The Film: The Super Mario Bros

Rating: PG

Watch if you liked: Minions: Rise of Gru

Running time: 90 minutes

Genre: Family, Adventure

Overview: A plumber teams up with a princess to stop an evil giant turtle from destroying a kingdom full of mushrooms.

What you liked:

The animation in this film is gorgeous. It really made me think how far we’ve come in terms of technology when you compare it to the original Toy Story. The textures and the effects on the animation produce some incredible looking shots.

I imagine for younger viewers, the fast paced narrative will keep them from being distracted and I only spotted two toilet trips during the showing I attended so it must have worked for the vast majority.

The voice cast do a great job at voicing their characters - Jack Black as Bowser is particularly powerful.

What you didn’t like:

If I start a review talking about technical wizardry but not plot you know that there isn’t much plot. And there isn’t. I believe this is deliberate.

However, for all of its fast pace, the film became boring and repetitive as an adult viewer. It was like an ice cream sundae with all of the toppings but no ice cream - one sugary set piece after another with no story in between.

It started off strong with the brotherly dynamic being set-up - one who drags his brother into danger and the other who is constantly afraid. But then the rest of the movie happens and I’m not sure when or why the character development happened, it just does by the end of the movie.

The script is nearly nonexistent. You could write it in half an hour. The dialogue is predictable and lazy. If the characters on screen are laughing more than you are, you know you’re in trouble…

As someone who has only interacted with the Mario Bros via Mariokart, I was disappointed with the Mariokart sequence, it went by so quickly that it didn’t feel as though it was done justice.

The soundtrack to the movie is also very lazy. ‘I Need A Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler is owned by a much better animated film, Shrek 2, and it will be for all time. Dear Hollywood, please take note and avoid using it in future films for a ‘heroic’ montage.

Thoughts for parents:

There’s not much to delve into here in regards to the plot.

But I do think there’s an interesting conversation to be had around the influence of TikTok and short form videos. I’ve noticed, not just among teenagers and children but among my own friends, that people’s attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter.

In a way, I feel that this movie was made by TikTok. It’s a series of short videos strung together, complete with snippets of pop songs.

Do we lean into this as parents and youth leaders? Do we attempt to make the Bible more attractive by trimming down the fat and presenting a fast paced presentation of snapshots from the Story of God?

I can see how this would be tempting. I imagine young people would love this.

But are we robbing them of the actual story? Do we risk oversimplifying this incredible interwoven complex narrative by dumbing down the story?

How do we hold the two in balance? How do we hold their attention without losing the beauty of the complexity?

I’m not sure I have the answers but it’s definitely got me thinking.

3 stars