Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blast from the Past Movie Review: Super Mario Brothers (1993)

Over the weekend, I watched the 1993 film Super Mario Brothers with my friend Nick for his new podcast Myopia: Defend Your Childhood. Here's the actual episode for your listening pleasure...

So how exactly did a video game series with only minimal plot (the plumber has got to rescue the princess from the lecherous turtle-dragon thingie) get made into a film with a plot? Well, the movie starts out with a woman fleeing through New York to deliver a metal case locked with an exotic stone to a convent in the way one generally associates with foundlings being abandoned. She then goes down a subway tunnel, where she encounters Dennis Hopper in a military uniform with reptilian ridges on his head. Meanwhile, the nuns open the box and the egg inside hatches, revealing an infant girl. Twenty-some years later, the struggling Mario Brothers plumbers encounter a young blonde woman who wears the stone from the prologue as a necklace...

The Good

*I'll give them points for trying to create an expanded world/plot based on the game, even if what ultimately emerged was, well...we'll get to that. We have back-stories for the Mario Brothers themselves, both of them clearly have lives outside of being plumbers (the elder brother Mario has a girlfriend of his own, while younger brother Luigi is into sci-fi, unexplained phenomena, etc). The plot also involves people from our own world ending up in the parallel dimension even before the plumbers themselves get involved, which is pretty innovative.

*Dennis Hopper is having a lot of fun as the nefarious Koopa and it shows. He's the best actor in the bunch and the most entertaining with his distinctive voice.

*There's one scene that comes off as a parody of Thelma and Louise. I guess that's a Parental Bonus.

*The ending--a pretty blatant Sequel Hook--did pique my interest. Apparently it piqued enough interest that a comic-book sequel was written, much like what happened with the film Serenity.

*I did like Yoshi, even though he was too small for anybody to ride on. He's a pretty good example of pre-Jurassic Park special effects--a dinosaur puppet that moves by itself.

*There's an inside joke for gamers that I didn't notice at first--Mario, whose girlfriend was abducted by dull-witted minions who mistook her for Daisy, must dance with a very large woman based on the Big Bertha character from the games in order to retrieve Princess Daisy's necklace. Said dancing includes burying his head in her cleavage to try to snatch the necklace with his mouth. The outfit he's wearing in that scene is orange--much like that of Wario, the evil Mario counterpart who first appeared a year or so before the movie came out. Pretty clever.

The Bad

*The wider world they tried to create is ridiculous even by the low standards of children's movies. The gist of it is that the meteor that killed the dinosaurs instead created some kind of parallel world where dinosaurs evolved into a mostly human-like species dwelling in an isolated analogue to New York City in the midst of a vast desert. I'm guessing having "humans" who are descended from dinosaurs was cheaper than having casts of thousands of reptilian-looking creatures--and would allow for a love story between Luigi and Princess Daisy that's not icky. However, given how the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! that featured live-action sequences in our world and animated sequences in fantasyland had come out years before the movie, it would have been better if they'd done a similar live-action/animation split. The world and characters would be much more faithful to the game, which would help prevent the problem I'll get to next...

*Animation would allow for the Goombahs and Koopas to resemble their video-game counterparts better instead of being huge deformed quasi-dinosaurs. Given the science fiction plot, the Koopas could be human-sized reptilian creatures and the Goombahs could perhaps be humans (or human-like creatures) wearing some kind of armor? The Goombahs and Koopas instead are these ugly semi-retarded things that look ridiculous.

*They made Mario the plumbers' last name, so it's Mario Mario and Luigi Mario. It's so inane. It'd be better if the "Mario Brothers" thing resulted from a misunderstanding, perhaps by the inhabitants of fantasyland when they meet the plumbers.

*Bob Hoskins is Mario and John Leguizamo is Luigi. Bob Hoskins is 22 years older than John Leguizamo. They do explain this with Luigi claiming Mario pretty much raised him--I had the notion they might be from a large Catholic family where the parents married young and didn't use contraception, so the older siblings might be married and have families of their own when the youngest siblings are born and if the parents died, the older siblings would look after the younger ones. However, it'd be simpler if they were closer in age. Luigi makes a joke about how Mario was like a mother to him, so if they made casting decisions in order to justify a joke that really wasn't that funny, well...I really hope they didn't.

The Verdict

Very poorly made and often inane, but it has its entertaining moments. Four out of 10.

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