Super Mario Bros. was released in 1993, eight years after the original video game. It was enough time for Mario to become a household name, which means a big profit on licensed properties. This movie, however, can only ever really claim to be inspired by the Mario franchise; it takes such a strange departure from the source material that it’s hard to believe Nintendo sanctioned this. The movie begins with some babble about how the comet that killed off all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago actually knocked them all into a parallel dimension, then shows a baby being dropped off at a church and introduces Mario and Luigi after that. Luigi falls for a girl he meets on the street named Daisy, an archeologist who studies dinosaur bones (conveniently found in Brooklyn). When she’s captured by two goons from the aforementioned parallel universe, Mario and Luigi are compelled to rescue her and are in turn sucked into this other world. This all feels forced and ridiculous, so they better have put a ton of thought into this parallel world that they’re dragging us into.
The problem is that they put in too much thought. This is where the movie goes absolutely insane, especially for fans of the original game. The bright colors and cute design of the video games in the franchise are replaced with a dystopian city surrounded by desert. Run by a dictator named King Koopa who has an army of strange lizard people called Goombas. A character named Toad is a protester who ends up being captured for speaking out against King Koopa with a protest song. They call dinosaurs Yoshis. There was a sign in the background of a shot that simply said “THWOMP!” The movie essentially takes names of things from the video games and applies them to these completely unrelated story elements. It confuses the newcomers to the franchise and angers fans of the games. This movie can please nobody.
All that said, this movie is a technical disaster. The story unfolds in such strange ways that there’s no way one can understand how dinosaur bones, separate dimensions, and Brooklyn-based plumbers have anything to do with each other. The acting is admirable; the cast gives it their all, but the script is so ridiculous that it’s hilarious how seriously they take their roles. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo do their best to carry the movie as Mario and Luigi, but the real star of this movie is Dennis Hopper, who gives his role as King Koopa absolutely everything he’s got. The role is written horribly, complete with all of the tired tropes that cartoony villains in ‘30s serials use to explain their evil scheme to the heroes, but giving this role to Dennis Hopper was like giving a master mechanic a compacted car and watching him try to salvage it. As for the story, it’s too ridiculous to be funny or original, so it’s simply infuriating, especially when you think about the fact that this was originally a lighthearted platformer video game. Remember those dinosaurs in the parallel dimension I mentioned earlier? Turns out the dinosaurs evolved into humanoid creatures that look almost identical to humans and Daisy (not even Peach, but Daisy) somehow provides him the last remaining link to the human dimension, which King Koopa hopes to exploit in order to take over the world. It’s a mess.
With Super Mario Bros., you can laugh at how poorly the filmmakers misunderstood the source material. You can laugh at the fact that the screenwriters thought it would be a good idea to throw in every single movie cliche they could find because they still think they’re fresh; it’s obvious they haven’t seen a single movie in fifty years. You can laugh at the actors, who have all gone on record to say that they regret this movie the most out of their entire careers. You can laugh at just about every single aspect of this film, but as you do, make sure you keep your anger in check. You may just want to chuck a turtle shell at your TV.
This article is part of NUFEC's Bad Movies series. Find Super Mario Bros. on YouTube here and Amazon here.