aka: Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario
Director: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton
Starring: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens
This ain’t no game, it’s a live-action thrill ride!
Mario Mario and Luigi Mario are living together in Brooklyn, New York where they are working as plumbers. One day they cross paths with a young student named Daisy, who is helping out digging up dinosaur bones under the Brooklyn Bridge.
There is a portal in the same grounds to another dimension where humanlike creatures that came from dinosaurs walk around. Daisy ends up being kidnapped by the evil King Koopa and it is now up to Mario and Luigi to not only save Daisy, but also their own world.
Making a Super Mario Brothers film in the early 90’s make sense I guess. Nintendo was on top of the world and the characters were hugely popular (and still is to this day). The games however doesn’t have a lot of story to work with. I don’t think a live action film about a guy who eats mushrooms, runs from castle to castle to save the princess and jumps on creature’s heads to kill them would translate well to the big screen.
But if you look past the characters and little story of the games, what you still have is the colorful and fun world where Mario and the other characters live. That’s something that could be translated into a film and would be very respectful to the material it is trying to adapt. Here however, we are in Brooklyn, a setting that fits the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles much better than Mario. And when we are in the other dimension we get a dark world that resembles a Christopher Nolan Batman world much more than the world of any Nintendo game.
It’s no problem for me that they took the content and tried to do their own thing with it, but it just fails in this film. The humour is very wacky and targets ten year olds, while the world we are shown are more for late teenagers. It doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and it lacks a steady direction. I’m not even sure why they called this film for Super Mario Bros since it doesn’t target the fans of the games at all and surely they would know that the ones who did go and see this expecting a faithful film would be terribly disappointed. The premise and story are so unbelievable, even for a sci-fi film, that they use all the dialogue in the first forty minutes to explain what is going on.
The entire thing reeks of production problems or with people been given too much responsibility. This was a nearly 50 million dollar production and it was left in the hands of Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, a team who had made a name for themselves mostly by their work with music videos. Why anyone would give such an inexperienced team the job for a big budget production such as this is beyond me, and they didn’t exactly convince anyone to throw that kind of money to them again in the future.
Mario is played by Bob Hoskins, who has such fond memories of this production that he rates it to be the worst film he has ever been involved with. He does have the Mario physique and does come off as a decent Italian American New Yorker. The film focuses more on Luigi anyway, played by the younger John Leguizamo who do not have the mustache that all gamers would expect a Luigi to have. To make things even better for fans of the game, Princess Daisy, played by Samantha Mathis becomes Luigi’s love interest in this film. The biggest star of this film is undoubtedly Dennis Hopper as Koopa. Any bad Hollywood production with Dennis Hopper as a bad guy is worth seeing and here we get him with his hair done up to resemble a reptile.
Super Mario Bros is a good example on what happens when a production got too much money and too little leadership. It is a so-bad-it’s-good type of movie that cost almost 50 million dollars and failed to make half of that in the US box offices at the time of its release. It’s not the worst action/comedy/sci-fi movie ever made and it’s at least not boring, but it’s not very good either.