Super Mario Bros. (Film) Review

Super Mario Bros Film

Our look at (most) of the live action game adaptations, and the games that inspired them, starts with a double helping of Super Mario Bros. and boy… The staggering difference! The original Super Mario Bros. (review here!) is an all-time classic that’s still fun to play today, where as this is a complete flop that fails to even slightly evoke the spirit of its source material. Even ignoring the link to the all-time classic game, as a film it’s still pretty flawed… so let’s take a deeper look!

Synopsis:

About 65 million years ago, a meteorite crashes into the Earth, killing the dinosaurs and splitting the universe into two parallel dimensions. The surviving dinosaurs cross into this new dimension and evolve into a humanoid race.

Years later, Italian American plumbers Mario and Luigi live in Brooklyn, New York. Luigi soon falls for NYU student Daisy, who is digging under the Brooklyn Bridge for dinosaur bones…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Super Mario Bros Film 3

It’s a-them! Mario and Luigi! … Well, at least they’re wearing red and green anyway…

Mario (Bob Hopkins) – Mario is one half of the Mario Bros. plumbing service, but their business is struggling thanks to the mafia-owned Scapelli Construction Company. This, however, is soon the least of his worries…

Luigi (John Leguizamo) – Luigi is very laid back, likes to watch TV and play computer games (very meta!) but soon he falls for Daisy, and to say “his life is never the same again” would be a dramatic understatement.

King Koopa (Dennis Hopper) – King Koopa is the current leader of the alternate dimension where the dinosaurs evolved into more humanoid forms. He wishes to bridge the gap and invade Earth in order to rule over them, and take their resources.

Daisy (Samantha Mathis) – Daisy was actually the Princess of the dinosaurs’ world, but she was taken away as a newborn by her mother and placed on Earth. In her mind, however, she’s just a regular archeologist student in New York…

Iggy and Spike (Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson) – Iggy and Spike are two of Koopa’s cousins who are… well, not very bright. They’ve been tasked with the job of finding Princess Daisy and bringing her back to where she was born…

Lena (Fiona Shaw) – Lena is pretty much the Queen to King Koopa’s… er, well, King, but she isn’t treated very well, even less so when Koopa’s attention turns towards the soon to be arriving Princess…

Toad (Mojo Nixon) – Toad is a member of the dinosaur-evolved race, low down on the pecking order. He likes to play music, and has his hair shaved in a spiral… which you’d think he’d have it shaved like the head of the character Toad from Mario Bros. really, but… whatever…

Plus more!

The Good:

Super Mario Bros Film 2

Mr. Hopper absolutely revels in the bat-shit world he has to act in.

Say what you want to say about, well, the majority of the film, the practical effects are really quite impressive. Creatures, “goomba” heads, copious amounts of fungus around the place. It has a unique vibe and well created effects (well, with the exception of a few uses of CGI that… well, haven’t aged well, let’s put it that way.)

Another thing I’ll say is that a lot of the acting is fine. It’s a kids film, so King Koopa is goofy as well as threatening, his two cousins Iggy and Spike are perfect pratfalling henchmen, and the Mario Bros and Daisy are perfectly likeable as heroes and captured love interest, respectively. Combined with the good practical effects, it’s not that bad of a film. I remember sort of liking it when I saw it in the cinema as an 8-year-old, though the fact I never bothered to watch it again means it obviously didn’t leave that great of an impression…

Oh and the idea of the dinosaurs being flung into another dimension and evolving into humanoid people, which not exactly plausible, was at least an interesting sci-fi concept for such a weird kids film.

The Bad:

Super Mario Bros Film 1

Dramatic police car chase in futuristic neon urban streets! *starts humming the Mario Bros. tune*

Well, let’s get this out of the way: as an adaptation of Super Mario Bros. it fails hard, but then the world of Mario is so fantastic that doing it live action was always going to be nigh on impossible anyway. It does flip back and forth too, like one scene Mario and Luigi are in a futuristic police car being chased by other futuristic looking police cars, and the next Koopa is in a rounded-bottomed container in the air firing fireballs (from a gun, admittedly) at Mario, so sometimes it’s literally nothing like it, and then next… it’s still visually not very like it, but the references were strong, at least. Either way, it doesn’t work, the tone both through the comedy and through the presentation are so constantly at-odds that it makes for a surreal watching experience, rather than an enjoyable one.

While sometimes the acting is bad in that “funny children’s show way”, other times it’s actually just bad. I enjoyed Dennis Hopper chewing the scenery, but sometimes Bob Hoskins’ over-egging got a bit annoying. A whole scene in a bar where Mario is having to hit on an leather-clad overweight lady and dance with her in order to get a much needed stone was embarrassing, and not in a fun way. I kind of liked the weird tiny-headed Goomba design, but at the same time it’s so far removed from the actual thing it’s based on that I have to wonder why they even bothered. The same goes for some super high-jumping shoes that make appearance, just for the sake of “Mario jumps high!” and then it gets used by the pair of brothers for one scene…

The overall plot is simple, really, but it’s hard to put that as a complaint. The games are even simpler! Still, Daisy has a magic stone that can unite the two dimensions, and Koopa wants it so kidnaps her, but the stone goes through several people’s hands until the big finale. It’s fine, I guess, but not much to it… let’s put that somewhere in the middle, rather than bad, as again the source material isn’t a wealth of plot to pick from either, especially in 1993!

Overall Thoughts:

Super Mario Bros Film 4

These were my facial reactions when I read the list of game adaptations I’ll be watching in the coming months…

So Super Mario Bros., the first film adaptation of a computer game, gets so many things wrong from the off, especially adapting the game it’s based on. That being said, I don’t honestly believe it deserves its reputation as one of the “worst films ever made”, I’ve seen far worse, even coming up soon in this very marathon. Overall though, unless you’re curious or hanging out with some friends and want a laugh, I wouldn’t bother with this one…

2 Star Watch

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