SUPER MARIO BROS. (1993)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for Sci-Fi Action, mild Language and Sensuality

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Directed by: Rocky Morton & Annabel Jankel

Written by: Parker Bennett, Terry Runte & Ed Solomon

(based on the SUPER MARIO BROS. video game)

Starring: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Richard Edson, Fiona Shaw & Mojo Nixon

Most movies based on video games suck. This has been apparent from the early 90’s when audiences were hit with a trio of suckage in the form of MORTAL KOMBAT, STREET FIGHTER, and… SUPER MARIO BROS! Now, this 1985 Nintendo property doesn’t exactly lend itself well to the cinematic format to begin with. The original video game had a thin plot and a whole lot of trippy images that would be difficult to translate onto film. Well, the two directors and three screenwriters don’t seem to have even tried much as SUPER MARIO BROS. feels like a group of a Nintendo characters were thrown into a D-grade BLADE RUNNER/BRAZIL-esque universe. This 1993 adaptation has earned a reputation in cinematic history as a much reviled take on a beloved video game. It pretty much lives up to those standards as one of the worst video game adaptations ever made, which are strong words considering its competition.

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Mario and Luigi are a pair of hapless plumbers living in New York City. After running across a strange portal under the city streets, these “brothers” (actually, father and adopted son) wind up in an alternate dimension where humans have evolved from dinosaurs. With Luigi going head over heels for damsel-in-distress Daisy and Mario trying to find a way back home safely, the two plumbers run afoul of King Koopa (the dictator of this universe). With the fate of the world in their hands and strange creatures on their tail, Mario and Luigi must find a sacred relic, save the princess, and get back to New York in one piece.

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I don’t think it’s much of a shocker to say that the acting is pretty bad in this film. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo have given solid performances in various projects, but they’re horribly unconvincing as the famous pair of Italian-American plumbers. Leguizamo plays Luigi as a clueless romantic who doesn’t really do much, not that he’s given much to do. Hoskins plays up Mario as a rowdy, irritable New Yorker who’s either yelling in anger or screaming in terror. This is not the Mario that we all grew up with and wouldn’t be a compelling character even if the video games didn’t exist. On the completely embarrassing side of things, Dennis Hopper is godawful as King Koopa. He seems almost to be playing the role of this villain as a toned-down, kid-friendly version of Frank from BLUE VELVET. With a spiky haircut and lame one-liners, Koopa isn’t the least bit enjoyable to watch. It certainly doesn’t help any of these actors when the comic relief is so unfunny.

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Poor acting aside, there are still many terrible qualities to point out in SUPER MARIO BROS. The soundtrack seems to only use four or five different tunes throughout the entire film. One irritating jingle is used to the point of being downright painful. The BRAZIL-esque setting almost seems like an already-written rejected studio script just threw in these Nintendo characters to get itself produced. Ever think you’d see Mario or Luigi driving through a web of fungus? How about the plumber duo surfing down a frozen pipeline with two dinosaurs chasing them? I know all of us were pining to see Mario try to seduce a dino-woman named Big Bertha? The truth is that nobody wanted to see any of these things and those are just a few examples of many WTF moments throughout. There’s also a huge cliffhanger ending that’s begging for a sequel that was never made (thanks to this film tanking at the box office and horrible word-of-mouth).

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SUPER MARIO BROS. manages to be even more offensive to the viewer when it tries to incorporate elements from the game in really stupid ways. Mario and Luigi defeated enemies by jumping on them in the game, so why not give them giant metal boots that launch them into the air in this movie. The Goombas look nothing like the mushroom monsters that we all know and love, but rather like shrunken headed dinosaurs wearing giant trench coats. Yoshi pops up for a quick cameo and frighteningly resembles a Velociraptor from JURASSIC PARK. Toad is also included in the form of a hippie protestor who somehow manages to be just as annoying as the Toad in the video games (at least, the filmmakers got that part right). The only nice thing I can say about SUPER MARIO BROS. is that the Bob-Omb looks similar to the ones in the game.

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Uwe Boll didn’t start making terrible video game adaptations until 2003 with HOUSE OF THE DEAD, but there’s a valid conspiracy theory in thinking that he put on a disguise, snuck into Hollywood, and sabotaged SUPER MARIO BROS. Taken as an original flick, it’s stupid, unfunny, rather dull and doesn’t make a lick of sense. Taken as an adaptation of the video game franchise, those complaints are amplified with insult to injury. SUPER MARIO BROS. more than lives up to its reputation as one of the most infuriating movies ever made. There’s not a good quality to be found in this whole film! I wish Mario would jump on the heads of everyone involved with the making of this garbage.

Grade: F

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