In our 2nd episode of See, Here’s the Podcast, we dove into the topic of favorite and least favorite movies. As our discussion unfolded, we realized that sometimes, your least favorite movie can actually turn into one of your favorite films, through some weird technical science. Today, we take a look at one of those revered bombs of a film as we analyze the cinematic version of Super Mario Bros.
Now, at this point, you’re thinking one of two things:
- Super Mario Bros?!? COOL! I used to love that game!
- Why in the hell did they ever make a film about koopa troopas, fire flowers, and plumbers eating mushrooms?
If you are like me (or, at least, an 8 year old me), you initially thought the premise of a Mario Bros. film was utterly enchanting. Imagine it: it’s 1993, you’re fresh off the release of Super Mario World for the SNES, and your insides are tingling at the thought of seeing Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach on the silver screen. This would have been a great concept for an animated film, perhaps, but what did end up in theaters was as strange and grotesque as Donald Trump’s silly putty face.
The film opens innocently enough. Sweet strains of the 8-bit Mario theme song waft into our ears, and we’re teleported back to the 80’s. Well, actually that’s not true. To get a real sense of where I’m coming from, skip ahead to 0:42 seconds into this jaw-dropping introduction:
Evolution? Dinosaurs? Really, really bad animation and dumb-founding dialogue? Yep, it’s all in the first 60 seconds. The premise of the film is based on an ancient meteorite’s head-on collision with Earth billions of years ago, which subsequently opened up a parallel dimension (as they are want to do, naturally). And the parallel dimension leads to dinosaurs. But before dinosaurs, we have these guys:
Yes, you’re seeing the photo just fine. That’s definitely John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins, and they’re definitely in this film. And they definitely hated it the whole time.
Like in the video game, Mario and Luigi are indeed plumbers and (sort of) brothers. Mario adopted Luigi and raised him as his son, but what do you care about backstory when there are DINOSAURS to talk about?
The Mario Brothers (Mario’s last name is also Mario. Mario Mario. Oscar worthy stuff, right here) are down on their luck, forced to compete with even the more Italian Scapelli Plumbing Company. While out on a job, they meet NYU grad student (and frequent orphan) Daisy, who has an interest in fossils, crystal necklaces and khakis.
Daisy and Luigi quickly fall in love, and we quickly establish her necklace is vital to the story. Why, you ask? Because another character points it out and Daisy rushes to say that she “never takes it off, it’s all I have left from my mother.” There’s more history here, but why make small talk when there are DINOSAURS?
Daisy’s working on a dig site, which Scapelli wants shut down because plot points. He sends several goons to sabotage the site, but never fear! Mario and Luigi save the day…only to be knocked unconscious by two other goons who are (also probably Italian) looking for Daisy. They kidnap her and take her through an inter-dimensional portal below the Brooklyn Bridge. Just before they can take an other-worldly tumble, Luigi reaches out and grabs Daisy’s necklace from her. Why? Because more plot points, thus provoking our heroes to follow her. And, boy howdy, wait ’til you see what they find on the other side:
A fungus-filled cesspool with subtle references to Mario easter eggs (did you notice Bullet Bill’s Bar on the ride side?). Everyone’s pissy, petty theft is abundant, and you would be keen to carry some anti-bac with you.
Luigi inconveniently loses Daisy’s necklace, which is convenient for the plot, because the Mario Brothers spend the rest of the movie looking for it. Dennis Hopper is also looking for the necklace, because he was told to do so in the “script.” I use quotations because that’s what they chose to call the 428 pages of Bob Hoskins’ career swan dive.
Koopa is looking for Daisy’s necklace as well, because he claims it will “merge the two dimensions” and advance the plot. One of those two things is true. We also find out that Daisy is actually royalty: her father and mother ruled Dino Land before Koopa transformed dear old dad into fungus using a special De-Evolution Chamber. Mom promptly ran off and got herself killed because she was the only actor who seemed to have common sense in the this film.
Koopa wants Daisy because he believes she is the only one who can properly merge the two worlds (and because she’s the only one with her online certificate in Parallel World Merging…thanks Phoenix Online). He tries to seduce her in a terribly uncomfortable scene, but hey! We get to see Yoshi!
Mario and Luigi spend some time in the desert (harkening back to the video game worlds) and are able to recover the necklace through some pretty sick dance moves. Don’t believe me? If you can stand/stomach 5 minutes of this, see for yourself:
DO YOU SEE WHY I LOVE THIS FILM? BOOM BOOM, AACKA LACKA, BOOM BOOM!
The inevitable end of the film (because jumping on a flagpole wasn’t an option) finds the Mario Brothers victorious against King Koopa. They pelt him with de-evolution rays until he morphs into primordial slime, Daisy’s father is restored to human form (akin to the video games), and Earth is saved from a massive dinosaur takeover. In case you were moved to tears by the ballad of Mario & Luigi, fear not! They even left room for a sequel!
In case you didn’t get the gist of how awful this movie was, consider this: I took the DVD over to a friend’s house to watch, and the DVD player refused to play the disc after 45 minutes. It just plumb stopped playing, gurgling up squeaks and groans from inside the Playstation. It was like it was angry at me for putting such filth inside its system. I had to apologize by playing Shawshank Redemption on repeat.
While this film make reduce the majority of Hollywood into spastic fits, it holds a special place in my heart. You long for the traditions of your youth, and my youth just happened to include the films of Super Mario Bros, Mortal Kombat, and Rookie of the Year. I watch these flicks with full knowledge of their Rotten Tomatoes ratings (15%, 33%, and 39%, respectively), but I can’t help playing them time and time again. If you watch Super Mario Bros., maybe you, too, will long to see Dennis Hopper wear hair gel and Mario boogie on the dance floor.
Then again, maybe your DVD player will also protest in revolt.