Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You Got Some Video Games in my Movies - Super Mario Bros. (1993)

I've decided to go the Nick Jobe route and review every video game movie ever made. I'll be watching them in chronological order, or at least that's the plan. If I can't get a hold of some of the lesser-known ones, I'll be sure to note that and move on to the next one. Keep in mind that I'm bypassing documentaries and animated features, focusing only on live-action movies. It's too bad that I won't get to watch Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie for this purpose, but that won't stop me from watching it on my own anyways. Although there are a ton of horrible, horrible movies based on video games, I assume I'm still going to have fun with this project. As I'm sure some of you know, I don't mind watching garbage, and while doing so, I'll be pleasantly surprised at least a few times. I hope. So, without further ado, I'll start things off with the grand daddy of video game movies, Super Mario Bros.

DVD case accolades:

"It's a blast!"
- The Washington Post

"Eye-popping special effects!"
- Sixty Second Preview

I was really hoping to start this video game movie project off with some sort of a bang, but it was not to be. Super Mario Bros. is exactly what you'd expect from the first attempt at adapting a video game from the '80s into a movie: It makes no sense and horribly sucks. I got what was coming to me, though, so I'm not complaining.

I guess I'll tell you something about the story, but who really cares? The games obviously have no story, so the filmmakers decided to try and shove in as many references to them as they could while still making a compelling narrative. Well, they got it half right, at least. Let's see, there's a storefront shop called Bullet Bill's, a heavily modified Yoshi, bob-ombs, stupid rocket boots, Goombas, and last but not least, King Koopa as played by a sort-of-bored-looking Dennis Hopper. I don't think he really "got" what the hell was going on, but hey, he has weird hair!

Okay, fine. It's about two plumbers who get sucked into another dimension where dinosaurs survived a meteor impact 65 million years ago and have continued to evolve along a similar path as humans. The meteor impact somehow created an alternate dimension that can be reached through a sewer tunnel underneath Brooklyn. There you have it. Yea, don't ask me, I only watched the thing.

As stupid as that story is, there's a bigger problem than just the premise. Super Mario Bros. came out in 1993, and at the time, I was ten-years-old. This movie was marketed to me and my friends. It wasn't marketed to a savvy movie-going audience who'd already seen all the comic book and game adaptations of the past 20 years. So, sticking with the logic of the time, the games are for children, and as such, the movie should follow suit. There's a lot of really lame humor throughout (104 minutes, by the way. 20 minutes too long.), such as Koopa asking for a pizza hold the mammal, and I got bored shortly after I finished my first beer. Yes, beer is required when viewing these kinds of movies. Look it up.

 At least three beers, actually.

There are just a lot of basic things that Super Mario Bros. gets stupidly wrong. The two moronic goons tasked with kidnapping the princess have no idea what she looks like, and when asked by his partner how he knows which girl is the right one, he says she has "two arms, one head, and two legs." Right, that has to be her! I might be wrong about this, but I also think someone tried to slip in a message about God and faith under our noses, because there are a couple of lingering shots of stained-glass Jesus at the beginning when Princess Daisy is abandoned at the church, and at least 5 or 6 times, Luigi tells Mario he has to believe. It's a weird subtext to have in a movie about dinosaur humans and dimension-shattering meteors. Then there's the awesome and handy machine that evolves and devolves things at the flick of a switch, and the fact that most computer monitors are controlled by a light gun. And why are the Goombas 8-foot-tall lizards with shrunken heads and perma-smiles? That's a standing question. Lastly, Koopa's OCD thing about being clean is totally weird, even for this movie. Every time he shakes someone's hand, he has to wipe with a tissue, and he takes mud baths because "They're clean and dirty at the same time." I wonder if that was Hopper trying to add some bizarreness to an otherwise totally bland character, but even if that's the case, he still seems like he's phoning it in. I probably would, too.


On the other hand, Bob Hoskins is certainly not phoning it in. His energy level is quite high, and I can't help but like him. Oh, but my adult brain can see through that nasty little trick. It's not Mario I like, it's Eddie Valiant from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Maybe it's simply the Brooklyn accent, but it seems like he's just playing a cleaner, goofier, and nicer version of Valiant here. As for John Leguizamo, he's kind of annoying. Not egregiously so, but for an actor who's been in a some really good stuff, all he does is crack bad jokes and accidentally get things right when he needs to. Anyone could have done that.

There's not much else to discuss about Super Mario Bros. I wish I could say differently, but my enjoyment level was just about at zero. It's a movie squarely aimed at kids, but in the worst way. Terrible jokes, a nonsensical story that ham-fists video game references in place of actual context, and an overly-long run time make it an unfortunate snooze fest. It's interesting to watch as a kind of time capsule experiment or something, but otherwise, it's a sad relic. But hey, I'm sure I'll be redeemed next week when I sit through Double Dragon, am I right? C'mon, am I right? Shit.


  1. I loved both Mario and Double Dragon when I was a kid. Rewatching both for this project, I found Mario still stupidly enjoyable, and Double Dragon incredibly painful. Have fun with that one.

    Also... you're skipping out on animated and docs? Damn! One of the best films of the entire project was Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. (not to mention some of the other best films were the animated ones.) And the two actual-best films were docs! I think cutting out both categories is gonna make this a pretty painful experiment for you. :P

    1. Yea, I might make the docs and animated ones a separate project after this one is done. I just think they're different beasts. Street Fighter II is all kinds of bad ass, and I'm looking forward to finally getting around to watching King of Kong.


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