Video games have arguably been around for the better part of 50 years, and no matter what personal gaming console someone is using, the default identification of such is always “Nintendo.” And, if trying to blindly identify what exactly is being played then … yep, you guessed it: Super Mario Bros. is going to be the response. Now, with Universal Pictures finally making an animated Mario movie, a whole new Mario era may begin.
The film opens in the heart of an animated Brooklyn where everyone’s favorite plumbers, Mario (in red) and Luigi (in green), are off to a gig. Their business flounders early but the brothers heed a call for a city-wide emergency before being separately sucked into enormous pipes that spit them out on the opposite ends of another world. Poor Luigi is deposited in the Dark Lands, which are ruled by the evil Bowser, voiced here by ubiquitous comedian Jack Black. Bowser is bent on marrying the beloved Princess Peach of the Mushroom Kingdom where she rules and where Mario has crash-landed. Mario is warmly voiced by Chris Pratt of “Guardians of the Galaxy” fame and Peach by Anya Taylor-Joy, whose take on Peach is not some wimpy princess, but almost that of a warrior queen.
And so begins a great journey of epic video game proportions where just about every conventional Mario device will be recognized, even if the viewer only held a Nintendo controller a minute. Along the journey, audiences come across the hearty Toad and international video game celebrity, Donkey Kong himself. There are mushrooms, fireballs, and even the rarely used Tanooki Suit that make many appearances. While this might sound like gibberish to some, one thing I noticed is that children watching were having the time of their lives. My screening had plenty of giggles and mighty cheers from those in attendance, and I bet “The Super Mario Bros.” movie is going to be in most theaters for the duration.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
There’s hardly been an American author more in tune with capturing all the joys and pains of adolescence than Judy Blume. Her novels range from sibling mayhem in her “Fudge” quadrilogy up to the sensitive physical appearance taboos in the aptly-named “Blubber.”
Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig has created an adolescent masterpiece in one of Blume’s most cherished works and given it a full life in the totally charming and semi-serious “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” The film stars Abby Fortson in the titular role as a young adolescent caught between the interfaith whirlwinds of her good-natured mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams) and her clumsy father Herb (Benny Salfide). Scrambling with actual growing pains, young Margaret attempts to find a faith on her own terms by talking to God in hopes of discovering an easier and sometimes less embarrassing way out of puberty. The film is a colorful and at times, a feisty spirited take on the 49-year-old novel that Blume entrusted to Oscar winning producer James L. Brooks to make into a new classic. Rated PG-13, the film might not entertain little ones, but for any parents with tweens in their household, this film will surely speak to them and let them know they’re not alone in growing up.