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Things Only Adults Notice In The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Over 350 million Mario games have been sold around the world since the peppy Nintendo mascot was invented in the 1980s, with 2017's "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe" (the first Mario game released on the Switch) topping the chart. The racing game shifted more than 45 million units, proving that there's still a huge appetite for Mario. The little mustachioed plumber and the fantastical world that he inhabits have captivated fans for decades, and with the 2023 animated film "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," several generations of Mario fans came together to celebrate their favorite video game character.

With record-breaking opening figures at the box office (it raked in $146 million during its opening weekend), fans flocked to cinemas to see the animated feature. Like all good animated films, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" includes plenty of details that younger viewers aren't likely to catch. Hang onto your plumber's cap and get ready to power up as we check out all those little details that only adults will notice in "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."

The film has an all-star cast

It might get missed by many of the film's younger audience members, but adults will likely notice that "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is positively packed with big-name actors. Chris Pratt stars in the leading role of Mario in a performance so contentious it nearly broke the Internet. Lamenting Pratt-Mario's "ever so slightly Brooklyn-inflected normal-guy voice," Vulture's Rebecca Alter called the performance "Stripped of all joy, all bounce, all adorable high-pitched pep." But where Pratt arguably dropped the ball, Jack Black was more than happy to pick it up and run with it in his role as Bowser, a performance that was widely praised and considered by many to be the best in the film.

And then there's Keegan-Michael Key, who portrays Toad in a register so high that his voice is barely recognizable. According to Key, he began finding Toad's voice by mimicking a friend. Under the direction of his vocal coach, he continued to push the voice higher until he landed on the squeaky falsetto that would become Toad's voice. Other familiar voices among the cast include Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Fred Armisen as Jungle Kingdom ruler and Donkey Kong's dad Cranky Kong.

The plumbing makes no sense

It goes without saying that nobody should expect the mechanics in an animated movie for kids to be realistic, and the plumbing in the Mario universe has always been pretty suspect. Although a key feature of the Mushroom Kingdom is its many sewers and pipes, which Mario and Luigi seem to travel through with ease for the most part, the brothers really don't seem to do any actual plumbing in the games.

Adults were probably left wondering how the brothers portrayed in the film ever made rent with their plumbing skills given that the only two plumbing jobs they attempt in Brooklyn go terribly wrong thanks to some wonky plumbing shenanigans that draw on "Looney Tunes" physics. In fact, Brooklyn's water pressure in "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is so intense that a water main break leads to crisis-level flooding. But Mario's plumbing skills have always been up for debate among the fandom, with Nintendo's Japanese site even admitting at one point that he's no longer in the pipe trade.

So why was Mario even a plumber to begin with? In a CNN interview, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto explained that Mario was imagined as a plumber to make him more approachable. As the creator put it, "We wanted him to be someone who might live near you, and not a superhero."

It's packed with old school video game nods

Besides being loaded with details from more recognizable Mario games, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" goes pretty deep into the Nintendo archives with loads of references only vintage gaming enthusiasts and old-school gamers will get. The Brooklyn pizza parlor Mario and Luigi are watching their commercial in is called Punch-Out Pizzeria, a reference to the 1984 Nintendo arcade game "Punch-Out!!" — later known as "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" Eagle-eyed Nintendo fans will have also spotted a carwash ad featuring a guy who looks suspiciously like Balloon Man, who first appeared in the 1984 arcade game "Vs. Balloon Fight," later shortened to just "Balloon Fight."

Mario and Luigi's former boss and apparent frenemy Foreman Spike hails from the game "Wrecking Crew," in which his job is to sabotage the Mario brothers' work on a demolition site. At one point, Mario and Luigi even pass a French restaurant called Chasse au Canard, which translates to "Duck Hunt," a reference to the beloved shooting game of the same name. There are also subtle shouts to old school games like "F-Zero," "Starfox," and "Kid Icarus." And it's not only video games, either. One of the best Mario references that grown-ups will appreciate is the catchy rap the Mario brothers perform in their commercial, taken from the 1989 TV show "Super Mario Bros. Super Show!"

Nintendo exists in the world of the movie

Perhaps one of the most absurd details in "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is the fact that Nintendo gaming actually exists for the Nintendo characters in Mario and Luigi's world. Nintendo games and gaming systems show up several times throughout the story, both in Brooklyn and in the Mushroom Kingdom, giving rise to the possibility that someone has been doing business between the two worlds.

When a family dinner devolves into a fight between Mario and his dad, the red-hatted plumber storms off to his bedroom, where he calms down by flipping on his old school NES to play "Kid Icarus." But perhaps the best meta reference to in-world gaming is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment as Toad takes Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom. While traveling through the busy city center, they stroll past an antique store. Inside, the antique dealer can be heard advising someone to "blow in it" — a reference to the fact that sometimes when your NES game wasn't working, blowing in it was allegedly said to help.

Bowser has Nice Guy Syndrome

Jack Black's performance as Bowser is arguably the best part of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," but there's something about his character that adult viewers might find a bit sinister. In Internet parlance, Nice Guy Syndrome refers to a man who appears to be legitimately friendly towards women on the surface, but whose motives are ultimately self-serving. These so-called nice guys see friendship with women as a means to an end, and when they don't get what they want, they react by lashing out, complaining about how women don't really want nice guys, or expressing bitterness about being friend-zoned.

This same type of toxic, strings-attached friendship characterizes Bowser's obsession with Peach in "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." He dreams of Peach and writes songs for her, but he ultimately sees her as a commodity and has no regard for her feelings. He's abusive to guys he sees as competition for Peach's affection, despite protesting, "I'm not threatened!" This might fly over the heads of younger viewers, but for grown-ups in the audience who have experienced this kind of behavior in the real world, it's very obvious.

Princess Peach and the Smurfette Principle

First coined by literary critic Katha Pollitt in The New York Times, the Smurfette Principle is a term used to describe a story that finds a solitary female character living in a completely male world, much like Smurfette did in the classic cartoon "The Smurfs." Rather than being portrayed as complex, well-developed characters, the most defining trait of these females is usually their gender. For far too long in the world of Mario and Luigi, female characters were rare, and those that did exist tended to be super-girly princess types. Sadly, the same can be said about "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," something that grown-ups in the audience will no doubt notice.

When the cast of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" was announced, numerous people noticed that only one of the main characters was female, despite there being several available in Mario lore. "Besides Peach, there are two other princesses, Daisy and Rosalina, who have both made appearances in multiple games," Keen Gamer said. "Peach's Mushroom Kingdom has been home to both Toad and his female counterpart Toadette. More recently Pauline, originally the damsel-in-distress from the 1981 game 'Donkey Kong,' made a decisive move into the Mario milieu in 'Super Mario Odyssey' as the mayor of New Donk City." Perhaps these characters are being held back for future installments — the cast has already been talking about building a Mario Cinematic Universe, after all.

Lumalee's existential dread

Despite the implication that Luigi is a bit of a coward, the film's titular brothers seem surprisingly chill as they encounter countless bizarre beings during their time in the Mushroom Kingdom. One that the adults will likely appreciate more than the film's younger viewers is the adorable Lumalee, a raindrop-shaped creature Luigi first meets while they're both caged in Bowser's dungeon. In Mario canon, Lumas first show up in "Super Mario Galaxy," where they serve as shopkeepers and tend to pop up before boss battles. In the lore of the games, all the Lumas end up sacrificing themselves to save the world from a black hole.

In the film, Lumalee is cheerily nihilistic, musing about the "infinite void" and the pain of existence. In contrast with the aggressively optimistic Toads and the never-say-die girl power energy of Princess Peach, there's something refreshingly real about Lumalee's existential ramblings, something every parent who has stared into their morning coffee searching for the will to appear halfway together will find wholly relatable.

The Banzai Bill explosion should have been a mass casualty event

In Mario lore, Bullet Bills are bullet-like creatures with angry eyes and beefy little fists. When they come into contact with Mario, death is certain. Their big brothers are Banzai Bills — extra large, missile-like projectiles with shark-like teeth and a far more menacing appearance. When Mario faces off with one at the end of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," things look bleak for the Mushroom Kingdom. Fortunately, our favorite plumber is still rocking his Tanooki power-up, and he uses it to lure the Banzai Bill away, diverting it into the pipe system he arrived through — a system that leads to Brooklyn.

Although the maneuver saves Peach's kingdom, it breaks the space between their two worlds, creating a massive explosion when it crashes. It's hard to overlook the fact that he simply diverts the bomb to his own home, where it wrecks buildings, rips up streets, and causes general mayhem. And yet, implausibly, no one seems to be harmed, something adults no doubt noticed. What should be a tragic, mass-casualty event simply makes a cartoony mess. Sure, it's a kids' movie, but it's hard to get past the fact that nobody gets as much as a scratch here.

Brooklyn barely reacts to the insane events that go down

City living means getting used to some pretty crazy happenings, and many New Yorkers have just about seen it all. While it's not surprising that Brooklynites might be relatively unphased when chaos erupts on the streets, it's quite shocking how little anyone in "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" seems to react to the interdimensional rift that floods their community with strange, sentient fungus and other alien creatures. After all, this is the same Brooklyn that was covered with reporters and emergency services for a water main break.

After Mario breaks the universe with his Banzai Bill chase, a host of horrors comes flooding through from the Mushroom Kingdom, including Bowser's castle and all of Bowser's minions. As the final boss battle goes down, Mario and Luigi power up with the Super Star, causing them to radiate rainbow colors and become temporarily invincible while their family and neighbors look on. Things get even weirder when Peach force feeds Bowser a Mini Mushroom, causing him to shrink before their eyes.

After it's all said and done, the surprisingly un-traumatized people of Brooklyn come outside to celebrate, and no one seems to have any questions about what the heck just happened. Instead, everyone seems to easily accept the completely bonkers mayhem they've just watched go down, which begs the question: What else have these people seen?