You Could Say My Hat Is Off To You!

Apart from Mickey Mouse, I can’t think of any one animated icon more beloved than Mario. True, Sonic the Hedgehog is easily as recognizable, but not nearly as universally acclaimed (don’t see also: Sonic Unleashed, Sonic and the Secret Rings and the coup de crap, Sonic the Hedgehog [2006]) — that being said, it shocked and worried the gaming world (and myself) when Nintendo partnered with Illumination Studios, the studio responsible for the Despicable Me franchise, The Secret Life of Pets, Dr, Seuss adaptations The Lorax and The Grinch plus other 90-minute 3D fart jokes, to make the first legitimate Super Mario Bros. film adaptation… but what we have released in cinemas today is nothing but brilliant! If you don’t know the story, particularly if you haven’t played the games, fear not — like this year’s other video-game inspired movie, Tetris (not the same kind of movie, I know), you needn’t consult Wikipedia. You can jump in (heh-heh) to this flick and have a jolly good time. For the die-hards, you will have an equally, if not moreso, excellent time catching all the references to Mario games and other Nintendo IPs past and present!

A lot of fan-rage in the movie’s formative stage was devoted to the hiring of a (principally) celebrity voice cast in the lead roles; frankly, I think the IP is strong enough not to need one, but rest assured, the hiring of Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3) to voice the iconic red-suited plumber was not one done in cruelty to the film. Pratt brings humility and strength to Mario while still keeping the charm and brightness that original voice actor Charles Martinet has brought to the character since 1996 (do keep an ear out for Martinet’s not one, but two cameos!). Charlie Day (Pacific Rim) works exceptionally well as Luigi, charmingly cowardly and packed with quality slapstick gags! Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) is great as Princess Peach, with her voice suggesting the best of classic animated princesses, yet strengthened without going totally snarkysnob. Keegan-Michael Key (Schmigadoon!) is totally adorable as Toad, erstwhile protector of Her Highness (and I still don’t believe his voice in the role was natural!), but the real linchpin in this movie is Jack Black (School of Rock) as Bowser, the big, bad, king of the villainous Koopas! He (briefly) brings his musical prowess (…or Bowsess? Nah.) to the film in a hilarious way and, on the whole, almost steals the show, and if the Annie Awards still honor voice actors, he’s got it in the bag!

All this being said, the real brilliance in this movie is how Nintendo has changed Illumination from being a studio whose movies were only good for plopping your children aged 1 to 8 in front of to being a legit animation studio — there’s not even a single rude joke in it; I never thought the day would come! To honor the IP while still crafting a movie for general audiences is a daunting task, to be sure, but this is in the class of the best of Disney and Pixar circa 2010 and prior. This is the kind of movie that, like The LEGO Movie, is doubtless going to be snuffed for Oscars, but in the minds of the public, will be beloved, to say nothing of filling the coffers of Universal and Nintendo and sparking further adventures in and beyond the Mushroom Kingdom! As an aspiring writer and editor, the best thing I can say (along with every other creative/financial mind in the business) is “my hat is off to you,” and as a moviegoer, I can give it nothing less than my highest recommendation!



I Am Satisfied With This Film

And the best part is that he's not cloying or annoying in any way!

And the best part is that he’s not cloying or annoying in any way!

This review is Spoiler-Free, proud-to-be!

Up until Big Hero 6, I hated all animated films made post-2010 (i.e.: Tangled, Toy Story 3). Given how Pixar has turned to milking toy money from their “art” (see also: Cars 2Brave, Monsters University, and so on), Walt Disney Animation Studios hadn’t fared much better in my eyes — Wreck-It Ralph was nothing more than a commercial for both GameStop and Nestle, and Frozen pushed the agendas of both radical feminism and toy moneymaking over a story for everyone.

My hopes for Big Hero 6 were beneath contempt when I went to see it today, and for the first act, my hopes were met. It’s not unlike Oz, The Great and Powerful, where the first act is stagnant with exposition, full of needless wordplay and references to preexisting material, and there is little care given by the creative team to like the characters you see — at least for an adult; as children, it’s a given that you love everything you see in a theater. That being said, like Oz, the film kicks into high gear in the second act, when the motives of the characters change under the presence of a threat and a chance to stop it, and it only gets better from there — if you wanted a Disney movie with the panache and wit of Wreck-It Ralph, but also the heart and soul of Meet the Robinsons, this is the one.

I must also give kudos to the film’s directors for not casting celebrities as these delightful characters — too many animated films today are riddled with big names (i.e.: Epic, The Book of Life) just to get cash from adults who would otherwise not see the film. The real star of this cast is T.J. Miller, whom I found insufferable as a token comic relief character in Transformers: Age of Extinction (and, in said film, was glad to see him get bumped off in the first half hour!), but is hilarious without chewing the scenery and unpredictably warm in this film! The weak link in the cast is not so much about performance as it is about sound — relative newcomer Ryan Potter voices Hiro, the lead in our story, and while I believe his character’s convictions and motive, I don’t believe that he sounds like a fourteen-year old kid. His voice is just too deep, and I wish that someone with a more youthful voice could have been chosen instead… or, at the very least, some computer alterations would have helped.

Big Hero 6 is not the best animated film of the year; that award belongs to The LEGO Movie. That being said, this is not a film to be missed, particularly in 3D, and it represents a return to form for Walt Disney Animation Studios. After all, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!