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Super Mario Bros. (1993)

DVD Cover (Walt Disney Studios)
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Directors:
Annabel Jankel Annabel Jankel
Rocky Morton Rocky Morton
Starring:
Bob Hoskins Bob Hoskins
John Leguizamo John Leguizamo
Dennis Hopper Dennis Hopper
Samantha Mathis Samantha Mathis
Fisher Stevens Fisher Stevens

4.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres / Traits: Adventure, Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure, Dinosaurs, Video Games
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Review by Crispy
Added: September 13, 2015
Happy birthday to me! And also to Super Mario. Yes, on this day back in 1985 the very first Super Mario Bros. game was released in Japan. Since then, the character has gone on to become undisputedly the most popular video game to ever grace 8-bits. He's appeared in over two hundred games, not to mention comic books, cartoons, and every piece of merchandise you can think of. Oh, and he was also the focus of this unbelievably shitty movie.

Brothers Mario and Luigi are two Brooklyn plumbers hard up for cash. They're behind on the rent, their van is held together with a hope and a prayer, and a rival company run by business-mogul Scapelli is not only sniping their jobs, but he's also trying to run some paleontologists out of a local dig because it's delaying his construction. The dig site is run by a young woman named Daisy, who after bumping into the Mario brothers, hits it off with Luigi. Unfortunately, their first date is interrupted by Scapelli's goons flooding the site. With the help of his older brother, the pair are able to stop the deluge, but in the confusion Daisy is kidnapped by two strange guys who drag her right through solid rock with the two brothers in hot pursuit. You see, that meteorite that hit the Earth 65 million years ago didn't actually kill the dinosaurs, it created a parallel dimension where dinosaurs evolved into humans instead of apes. This dystopia is run by the scheming President Koopa, who plans on merging the realms for Earth's natural resources. As it turns out, Daisy is actually a princess of this realm, and her amulet is the key to this merger.

We've all played the game. Does that sound like anything that would come out of it? Our half-witted filmmakers were more interested in making a dystopian future flick in the vein of Blade Runner and add some imagery and character names from the franchise. We got little homages here and there like the seedy bars named after characters, boots that allow massive jumps, and charge canisters painted like Bullet Bill. Nothing but superficial references. Still, it's better than the treatment the adapted villains received. Most of them have been transformed from creatures into normal people. Big Bertha , a large red fish, is now a large woman in a spiky red dress and Spike and Iggy, two reptilian henchmen, are now retarded cyber punks. Even the series' infamous King Koopa (You know him by his American name, Bowser) was shafted hard. He started off as a dragon rocking a spiked turtle shell, and instead we get Dennis Hopper with liberty spikes. On the other end of the spectrum, the goombas at least got to remain inhuman, but they sure didn't fare any better. Now they're massive humanoids with shrunken reptile heads. If you'll remember, they started out as snaggle-toothed triangular heads with feet. It's obvious that these people had no idea what fans wanted from a Mario movie. Hell, our two heroes don't even don their traditional outfits (or the cheesy variation thereof) until well into the movie. I understand a more straightforward adaptation would have been, well, a trip that LSD would be proud of and in 1993 there wasn't quite an established back story so they had to make a lot of things up, but the route they ultimately took was objectively a brainless and terrible decision.

So it's a terrible adaptation, but even judging it on its own offering, this is just not a good movie. The whole thing is bogged down with more cliches than you could shake a chain chomp at. Orphaned princess returning to her kingdom? Check. Said orphan possessing a trinket that's the key to the big bad's evil plan? Check. Said big bad having an army of incompetent minions? Check. The only thing worse than these cliches are the original ideas they had. For example, Koopa's predecessor (Daisy's benevolent father, in yet another cliche) was reduced to a sentient fungus that's covering the entire city (Get it? It's a "mushroom kingdom!"). It's a really stupid idea that's only there to give them a lazy deus ex machina whenever they need it. Cap it all off with an ending that defines anti-climatic and offers a cliff-hanger for a sequel that nobody wants and you can see why the very first video game movie went a long way in creating the stigma that still saddles them to this day.

If nothing else, at least the acting wasn't terrible. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo had a very nice chemistry as the titular brothers. Again, they had nothing in common with the characters from Nintendo's consoles, but I had some fun with them and they made the movie a little less painful to sit through. Likewise, I had no problem with Samantha Mathis as Daisy. She wasn't quite as entertaining as the other two, but she wasn't bad either. Oh, and then there was Dennis Hopper. He brought more ham than an Easter dinner, just in case his transformation wasn't bad enough. I'm sure that's just what he was told to do, but that didn't make it any fun to watch.

I tell you, I'm amazed that Mario didn't suffer more collateral damage after this, but fortunately he was not to be stopped. It did leave a real bad taste in Nintendo's mouth though. In fact, it's taken them twenty-three years to get over its fears and move forward with another on-screen project involving one of their classic franchises: a Netflix-helmed The Legend of Zelda. I'm sure it will be better than this schlock. 2/10, but let's not dwell on the past. Happy birthday Mario!
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