The Movie Guru: ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ made for fans, but ‘Air’ struggles for purpose
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (in theaters)
A movie doesn’t have to be good to be entertaining.
If you’re a Mario fan, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” definitely qualifies. It’s a love letter to the fanbase, packed to the gills with as much of the video game universe as filmmakers could fit into a single movie. The plot is as thin as you’d expect out of Illumination, but that doesn’t matter so much when you’re busy hunting for Easter eggs and spending time with the characters you love.
If Bowser is your favorite, you’re in for even more of a treat. Jack Black is an absolute delight as the character, proving with every scene why he’s still such a popular villain. Anya Taylor-Joy is also fun as a Princess Peach who is much more battle-ready than she is in the games. Chris Pine is fine as Mario, which is more than I thought I’d be able to say for him before I saw the movie (they explain in-film why he sounds so different than the iconic version of the character). There wasn’t nearly enough Luigi, particularly together with Mario, but Charlie Day did good with what he had.
If you love Mario and the world he lives in, this may be just the adventure you’re looking for.
Grade: Three stars
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Air (in theaters)
It’s a movie about signing Michael Jordan to Nike.
Granted, “Air” is the most entertaining movie I believe anyone could possibly make on this topic. Director Ben Affleck has wrestled every shred of “underdog believes in a dream” spirit he possibly can for the film. Matt Damon once again proves to be one of the most interesting “everyman” actors working today, keeping the audience’s attention during several scenes of meetings they would have definitely slept through in real life. Viola Davis is as fantastic as she always is.
But it’s still a movie about a sponsorship deal, and not even the most well-written script can change that. Unless you’re a really big fan of the ins and outs of the business world or Michael Jordan’s financial situation, “Air” never quite manages a compelling argument for its existence. It’s not a bad movie, all things considered, but it probably never should have been made in the first place.
Grade: Two and a half stars
Tetris (Apple TV+)
It turns out movies about corporate deals become a lot more interesting when you add car chases.
“Tetris” is technically the story of how Nintendo got the rights to Tetris, but thankfully screenwriter Noah Pink and director Jon S. Baird only made that part of the story. They also added a hefty dose of the KGB, including some plot twists and genuinely nail-biting moments where it felt like people’s lives were on the line. A lot of it didn’t actually happen in real life, but if you’re going to make something into a movie the least you can do is give the audience car chases.
A nice element of the movie that does have some basis in reality is the friendship between programmer Henk Rogers and game designer Alexey Pajitnov. Taron Edgerton makes Rogers impossible not to root for, and Nikita Efremov plays Pajitnov as a sweet guy who just wants to make a cool game. Even if you’re having trouble following exactly who has the rights, you know you want both guys to be safe and happy.
Grade: Three and a half stars