September 13, 2015
Super Mario Bros.
Review #736: Super Mario Bros.
Bob Hoskins (Mario), John Leguizamo (Luigi), Dennis Hopper (King Koopa), Samantha Mathis (Princess Daisy), Fisher Stevens (Iggy), Richard Edson (Spike), Fiona Shaw (Lena), and Mojo Nixon (Toad) Directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel.
Since today's the 30th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros, I decided to review the movie based off the video game. Before talking about this movie, let me talk a little about Super Mario. Let's be honest: The plot of the original game is simple: A plumber named Mario tries to rescue a princess from Bowser (also known as Koopa). To make a movie out of it, you have to have more plot. Whatever Super Mario game you played first (Mine was Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES, which my dad bought at a sale five years ago), Mario's legacy is one that can never be stopped, and it is has crossed over into the realm of television, cereals, anime, comics, and of course, this movie.
Yep, this one. The one from the same people that worked on Max Headroom (never heard of it)...which has had a reputation. Not just from people, but from the actors themselves. Dennis Hopper described this film as a nightmare that went over budget. Bob Hoskins said it was not only the worst job he ever did, he also said it was both his biggest disappointment and the one thing he'd change about his past. Leguizamo said in his own memoir that he and Hoskins got drunk constantly while filiming this. It's strange that Mario and Luigi's last names are both Mario (I guess that explains the Mario Bros. part)...but that's not the least of the movie's problems. The main problem is that the movie really doesn't have much of a focus to it in terms of tone. Is it supposed to be a comedy? Light hearted family flick? Adventure? Sci-fi? Dark fantasy? What is it? The lack of consistency with the tone clouds a movie that is already pretty strange. I do kinda like the idea of an alternate dimension for the Mario Bros, but it's still not done very well because it just flies by too quick to make an impact. The acting is certainly...notable. Hopper looks like he doesn't care. Now whether that means that he doesn't care about the movie or his performance in it is the question. Hoskins and Leguizamo evidently did not enjoy their experience in the movie, and it shows. Pretty much every actor is just there to say lines...though Stevens & Edson provide occasional moments of mild enjoyment
Let's talk about some of the video game stuff briefly, because I know at least something about video games. I wonder if the Princess is named Daisy because of Super Mario Land (released four years earlier) or because being known as Princess Toadstool (The name she was referred to as in the US prior to 1993) would be too weird. The Goombas are an okay effect, though them being taller than the Mario Bros doesn't make too much sense, given that in the game they are the easiest to kill. I find it very strange that Toad is now a guitar playing rebel...but then again Toad wasn't exactly endearing in the video games to begin with. Yoshi...is there for about 20 seconds. Apparently Yoshi was an animatronic effect controlled by cables and radios. It's not a bad effect, but he's only there briefly. Koopa (also known as Bowser) is now evidently half-human, half-lizard. Nuff said. Remember Big Bertha? That fish from the third game? Big Bertha is now a big woman. The Bob-omb at least resembles the one from the game, and is probably the only thing in this movie that is loyal, sadly enough.
The movie's effects are hit and miss. The design of the city is okay, but you could honestly confuse it for any movies with a The portal effects look more like soup and the Goombas have a certain washed out pale look to them. The movie ends on a cliffhanger...that will never be resolved. Super Mario Bros was a flop at the box office, and rightfully so. It's a movie that tries to cover too many bases to focus and please everyone while managing to be a tangled mess with no clear focus. It's sad how it seems no one who made this had fun making this, but at least it's not unwatchable. It's not a terrible movie, it's just isn't any good either. I did find it interesting that there's actually a comic strip dedicated as a "sequel" to this film, so at least something came out of this. Ultimately, this a movie that lags alongside other weird 90's movies, though not the good kind. Happy 30th, Mario. You deserved better than this.
Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.