This article contains minor spoilers for "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."For decades, I've played Nintendo games. They weren't the only ones I enjoyed, of course. I've spent more hours than I like to calculate on darker games like "Ghosts of Tsushima," "Assassin's Creed: Odyssey" and "Valhalla." They're a blast, and they let me indulge in my history geek side. However, these aren't games I play to forget the world for a bit. They're very much rooted in the world, full of complex emotions and situations, moral questions about the decisions you make, and full of a lot of dismembering and brutal death.
When I play a Nintendo game, specifically one set around Mario, Donkey Kong, or any of the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, I'm not playing it to go deep into a world gone by or murder a whole lot of enemy fighters. I'm playing it to relax. I play to remind me of the joy I had as a kid, shooting Mario through pipes, dodging Piranha Plants, and jumping up on boxes that might have a power-up inside.
There have been some critiques of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" that say it's too simplistic. I've seen complaints that there weren't any big twists or reveals or that they haven't spent time with every character in the franchise. One big one I've heard is that it's clearly a movie for kids and that the people who actually played the games are my age now. Friends, the fact that it's not targeted at me as an adult who has been playing Nintendo my entire life is exactly what I love about it. I don't want a movie for the jaded or complex adult mind. We have enough of those. For "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," I just wanted to have fun.
A Movie That Doesn't Require Homework
There is a place in the world for animated kid films that are packed solid with adult jokes to keep parents entertained after the 40th viewing, and there is certainly a place for dark films that require you to have read source material, obscure comics, and have watched every single thing in the franchise that comes before. Yes, of course, I'm talking about superhero films, Star Wars projects, and projects of that ilk. I love them with all my heart, but they've become the dominant form of entertainment. They're making me a bit tired as I try to keep up, wake up hours early to research all I can before I watch so I don't miss anything, and keep subtitles on so I can get character names correct. Shocking, I know, but it's okay to have a film like "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" that I can just watch. You know, like we did when we were kids?
The movie has a simple story. It's a guy and his brother who are taken away from where they live to a brand new world. Mario (Chris Pratt) has to rescue his brother Luigi (Charlie Day) from Bowser (Jack Black) with the help of Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen), and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key). There are Easter eggs all over the place, but you don't need to recognize a single one to have fun with this story.
These are simple characters. Toad(s) loves his brave Princess and is joyful and helpful. Bowser is pretty evil. Mario and Luigi care about each other. The message is that anyone can be a hero. The games were never supposed to be a complicated take on society. They're just supposed to be fun.
Remember What It Was Like To Play Games As A Kid
It's funny to me that the same things people are saying they want in this film are the complaints they all seem to have about superhero films; "They're too complex." "They're trying to give every character ever written a line." Well, this plot doesn't take a master's degree to figure out. They may have shown us Yoshi and many of the franchise characters, but they didn't work to make sure every single creature was part of the plot. No one shoehorned Diddy Kong in for more than a single sentence of dialogue, and I was expecting him to show up a lot with quippy lines.
You know, it's okay just to sit back, relax, and watch a fun story play out without having Wikipedia open. I'm no kid, certainly, but it reminded me of what it was like to be one. It's an adventure tale where the good guys win, the bad guys are jerks, and a cute sidekick grins at you from under a mushroom hat.
Ultimately, this is a film for kids to enjoy. If adults do as well (and I qualify), that's great! If you really want to see a complex love triangle with Peach, Mario, and Luigi, underhanded dealings from the Kongs, a reveal that Yoshi was really ... I don't know, made up of stacked Lumas all along or something, there's always fanfiction. Just let this film be what it is; a simple story of an unlikely hero and his new friends who go on an adventure and save the day.
Fellow nerds, I love you, but just let the kids have this. Maybe it will help you remember what it was like to be a kid yourself.
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