$2.50 Reviews: Super Mario Bros. (1993)

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$2.50 Reviews

Super Mario Bros.

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The first few scenes of Super Mario Bros. introduce us to our characters, which you'll know from the video games of the same title. There's Mario (Bob Hoskins), the older, more serious brother; Luigi (John Leguizamo), the younger, more jovial brother; "Princess" Daisy (Samantha Mathis), who will need to be rescued; and King Koopa (Dennis Hopper), the dictator in a parallel universe in which dinosaurs evolved into human-like creatures. All four characters look like normal humans for the vast majority of their screen time.

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Soon enough, Daisy gets captured, while Mario and Luigi find themselves transported to this different dimension, figuring that once they are there, rescuing her might be a good plan. They do very little to make themselves seem like the game characters from which they're inspired, which might be for the best when you consider just how little of a character could use as a basis. Anyway, Hoskins and Leguizamo embody characters with little personality anyway, and just happen to share a name and (sometimes) attire with the video game characters.

They essentially go through action scene after action scene in an attempt to rescue the princess. At least the spirit of the games has been retained here. If you somehow haven't played a Mario game before, the gist of it is this: You run from left to right, jump on any enemy in your way, and collect as many coins as possible. It gets a tad more complicated than that, obviously, but that's as concise as summary as I can give. You're better off just going to play one of the games than trying to sit through this movie.

There is only a little plot here. There's an attempt at establishing the back story of each universe, how the King Koopa's domain was created, and so on, but it doesn't really matter. Once Mario and Luigi are there, all bets are off. Goombas do exist here, you'll be happy to know, although they might upset you because of how they look. They're "de-evolved" humans (so that they lose their intelligence and reasoning, we're told), with small heads and huge bodies, and a clueless smile glued to their faces. I thought they were cute, personally.

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King Koopa looks nothing like his in-game counterpart, although putting Bowser into live action and having him retain his looks would probably not fare too well. I was fine with the character's appearance, and even the whole "dinosaurs evolved into humans" thing. What I wasn't happy about was Hopper's portrayal of the character. King Koopa needed to be played over-the-top, but in the film, he's as straight as an arrow for the majority of his time on-screen. It's only right near the end that the silliness of the character comes through, and by that point, it was too late.

Bob Hoskins is a good actor, but he didn't seem to care a whole lot about this project. I don't really blame him, but it would have been nice to see him make an effort. Leguizamo does that, but he's so bad here that you would be commended for laughing at him. Being a "nice guy" does not compensate for a complete lack of depth, intensity, or screen presence. He could be the sole focus on-screen and we would be distracted by the background -- even if we can't see the background.

It's just not a whole lot of fun when you get right down to it. In reality, it doesn't matter whether or not the characters look, sound or act like their video game counterparts; it only matters that this silly movie is enjoyable. It's way more often uncomfortable than it is entertaining. There are times when it's weird enough to almost be noteworthy, but for most of the time it plays, I felt bored and like I was wasting my time.

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I didn't even dislike the villain. He didn't seem to be that bad of a person. The worst thing we see him do is turn people into Goombas, but that seems to be a pleasant existence. You're happy, you have few thoughts, and you're gigantic, meaning nobody would want to mess with you. King Koopa is mentioned to be an awful person -- or, "thing," if you prefer -- but we never see him doing anything terribly villainous. The heroes never seem to be in any danger, meaning there's no suspense to the action, and he doesn't seem like he wants to ruin lives.

The tragic part is that the scenes taking place in the real world prior to the transportation to the parallel one are actually better than the ones that follow them. These early moments play out like a terrible rom-com, but at least I could (1) follow them and (2) get some sort of sick enjoyment out of how bad they were. Apart from one or two laughable points later on, it's not even a so-bad-it's-good film. It's just bad.

Super Mario Bros. is an awful movie that, unfortunately, isn't any fun. Bad movies are often so terrible that they're enjoyable, but that isn't the case here. It could have been possible if it wasn't taking everything so seriously, but because it does, the movie is dull and incredibly dull. It has some good actors who put in no effort, a nonsensical story, and bears only vague similarities to the video game from which it takes its inspirations. It's just awful, and you have no reason whatsoever to subject yourself to it.

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Aw, I was hoping it would be at least fun. Oh, well.

I have seen Idle Hands, however, and I look forward to that review. I personally enjoyed it.

What's really sad about the movie is the history of the film itself. I remember reading a Game Informer editorial about how difficult the movie was to work on (The directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, whose background was originally in directing the TV show Max Headroom, wanted it to not even resemble the video games it's based off of). It's almost worthy of a documentary, based on how hectic the film was to work on. What still shocks me, personally, was Director Roland Joffe's name was attached to the picture (He directed the Killing Fields, if you need an idea of the pedigree involved). I want to say a book has been released on the subject of the film's development hell, but I can't find one.

I've also seen fan sites that have chronicled how different the script was from what the movie ended up being, among other things.

ON TOPIC: The movie still astounds me, considering all the talent that was involved and how poorly it was received. I tend to have a soft spot for video game movies (I'll be nice to most of them unless they are aggressively bad), and this one is no exception: The look of the movie is kind of brilliant (Chaulk it up to the directors to make Mushroom Kingdom look like the set of Blade Runner), and the actors do the best they can with what they have to bring up, though poor Dennis Hopper is squandered in the movie (Hell, even poor Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo are squandered in this movie) and the narrative is a mess all around.

A spectacular failure, but one that almost needs to be seen, just to realize how, if you were going to do a video game movie wrong, how much invention and idea can go into something. It's certainly more elaborate than most video game movies lately.

A great review, Marter, as always.

"Mario Mario and Luigi Mario"; this seriously is my WTF moment here. But great review ;)

Yeah, I'd heard about the directors tearing the premise to shreds. To be honest, this reminds me of Hollywood's first few attempts at adapting really high-concept Sci-Fi in the fifties. The whole "video game adaptation" thing was a very new prospect for the entire industry, and I figure few scriptwriters and directors could figure out how to create something workable out of a Nippon man's fairly Lewis Carroll-esque idea of an Italian-American plumber's jaunts through Fantasy Land.

In a way, I'm reminded of David Lynch's adaptation of "Dune". It's big, it's bold, it's theatrical, it's got awesome set design -

And it's also got Sting in a Googie Raygun thong and Lych's signature weirdness superimposed over a plot that really has no need for Lynchian weirdness. Fun times. As in, excruciatingly painful times.

The old SciFi/Space Channel miniseries is loads better, and their Vladimir Harkonnen isn't a disgusting and self-absorbed prick.

IamLEAM1983:

And it's also got Sting in a Googie Raygun thong and Lych's signature weirdness superimposed over a plot that really has no need for Lynchian weirdness.

You know, i would be tempted to argue that every plot has a need for Lynchian weirdness. ^^

Anyways: The Mario Bros. movie ist just kind of a train wreck. I genuinely think someone could make a good Mario movie if it had, like, Pixar Style animation and a plot similar to the Paper Mario Games. If a Super Mario movie made at that point in time could have turned out differently? I don't know, probably not.

I enjoyed it when i first watched it as a kid, even if it didn't have much to do with the games. Maybe i should rewatch it sometime to see how bad it has aged.

I actually find this movie to be a bunch of mindless fun and think it deserves way less hate then it gets on the internets. If you want a truely awful game movie then go watch street fighter... Raul Julia what a last movie to end your career on :/.

Of course the plot is silly! The games literally all have the same paper thin plot 'bowser kidnaps peach' so creating the whole parallel universe, princess being spirited away and so on plot threads was needed for the movie format. Its mindless 90's cheese and perfectly enjoyable as a popcorn flick.

The actors were fine. Bob Hoskins is always great, Leguizmo is fine and Dennis Hopper chews scenery in a good way. I really enjoyed koopas two incompetent, bickering underlings, Especially after they were smartified!

I love all the game refrence's they snuck in the film. Bom-ombs!, sniffits, kuribo's shoe, mushrooms(trust the fungus), super scope, toad, yoshi, bullet bills and spike and iggy

I remember seeing this during the 90's when I was a massive nintendo fanboy. I absolutely hated this movie! Watched it a year ago and had a blast. I urge people who hated it upon release or around that era to give it another watch. Its very 90's, silly and very light hearted.

 

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