logan j. fowler gets into the game…
Adapting video game movies can be pretty tough. Without a strict storyline to work from, movie studios are left to their own devices on how to construct a film based on something that is pretty thin, plot wise. Dating back to the ’80s, Super Mario Bros. is one of the most popular video game franchises so no doubt it would make bank at the box office. The games were pretty simple as far as execution; princess is kidnapped by tyrannical dragon turtle creature, two brothers go to save her. Not too hard, right? Well, even though a Super Mario Bros. movie could’ve written itself, the final execution is still a smorgasbord of WTF choices.
Released in 1993, Super Mario Bros: The Movie had the basic plot line intact, only the movie focuses more on Luigi rescuing the royal lady where his brother is second fiddle. It’s not Princess Toadstool (aka Princess Peach) who needs to be rescued, but Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis), a familiar name in the Mario mythos. There’s no Mushroom Kingdom, rather a Dinosaur infused Manhattan that has fungus everywhere and has the citizens wearing wardrobe that would not look out of place in a Hot Topic.
Anyway, Daisy is kidnapped because she owns a piece of a rock that broke off during the meteorite crash that was supposed to kill the dinosaurs, but instead separated the worlds into the regular world and dinosaur world. That little rock fuses the worlds back together. King Koopa (Dennis … Hopper?) wants the rock because he is dire need to rule over both worlds. Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) “portal” over to the Dino Manhattan to get back Daisy and on the look for the lady, they encounter friends (like Toad, a hippie guitar player with a uniquely crafted cranium) and enemies (like the Goombas, who are thick bodied jacket wearing dudes with lizard heads). There’s also bob-ombs in there too, which is probably the most accurate Mario Bros. representation in the movie.
Yoshi makes an appearance as well, and while he’s got some slick animatronics operating him, he’s so far away from the look of his saddled green counterpart and he doesn’t look like anybody could hitch a ride on him, either. Is any part of this movie good? Oh yeah, it’s entertaining, but for the wrong reasons. It’s just a blast to watch for the sole sake of “wow, this movie just did so many things wrong.” The stompers give the brothers jumping powers, which they don’t innately have per the video game. And then there’s the traditional Mario bros. uniforms, which apparently could NOT be overalls, rather double breasted pocket shirts that are blue, with the sleeves being the same color, and the rest of the wardrobe being the traditional colors of each brother.
Then the casting … well Bob Hoskins resembles Mario enough so ok, but John Leguizamo is clearly of Latin descent (it’s pretty obvious that the plumbers from the game are Italian) so how did that happen? Also, Dennis Hopper is a great character actor, but having a human actor portray something that’s not even close to human was a huge misstep. I’m saying all this now, but back in ’93, I was excited as hell for this movie. Super Mario Bros. was a huge chunk of my childhood, and for a 10 year old kid, having a movie based on his favorite video game characters was a big deal. I dragged my poor dad to the flick opening weekend, and watching the events unfold on screen, I think it was the first time where I became a real hardcore critic. I analyzed everything that was wrong with the movie as it took place, noting all the character problems whether it be look or actions.
And I wasn’t the only one who looked upon it with negativity. The movie opened to poor reviews, and Bob Hoskins has gone on to say he regretted the choice to be in it, saying “It was the worst thing I ever did.” Leguizamo also expressed dissatisfaction, stating he and Hoskins would get drunk throughout the shoot to pass the time, because he knew it was going to be a disaster. Rounding it out, Dennis Hopper even himself said filming was a nightmare.
Even though most people have turned up their noses at the film, I know I and a lot of fellow lovers of the Mario Bros. video game franchise own the movie on DVD. It’s a really great movie to make fun of. I’m sure Nintendo never imagined the how the movie would turn out to be, but it goes to show how much they respect their properties because since 1993, no other films based on the big N’s franchises have even seen the light of day. We can probably thank Super Mario Bros: The Movie for that.