All right. So over on twitter, I posted something truthy about myself:
Well, here goes then!
SUPER MARIO BROS. (1993, dirs. Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton)
Stars Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper
Plumbers and vague Italian stereotypes, the Mario brothers (Hoskins and Leguizamo), find themselves sucked into a parallel dimension where dinosaurs have evolved into humanoids. For some reason, the evil dictator of this universe – King Koopa (Hopper) – has a particular dislike of plumbers. I don’t remember why. Oh well, I guess we all have things we don’t like. Anyhow, the Marios end up in this parallel universe on the premise of saving a cute young NYU student (Samantha Mathis) who – GUESS WHAT? – turns out to be Princess Daisy. Along they way, they encounter street musician Toad (Mojo Nixon, you guys!), match wits with King Koopa’s dinkus cousins Iggy and Spike (Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson, god love them), come up against some surprisingly tall Goombas, save some sexy ladies (I don’t remember THAT from the original video game), and basically save the day. Super Mario Bros. does its best to load up on references from the games, including Bob-Ombs, Thwomps (which are now some sort of rocket-boot), Bullet Bills (they’re cartridges that make the Thwomp boots work), Yoshi (a cute miniature tyrannosaurus rex), and Big Bertha (now a badass black lady who falls in love with Mario Mario). However, references don’t really make for a good film. The plot is kind of vague: something about King Koopa invading the human world to reclaim it for the dinosaurs, but he needs the final shard of a meteorite to bridge the gap, and GUESS WHAT? Princess Daisy wears the shard around her neck as a pendant! Anyhow, like I’d ever watch a movie like this for the PLOT. Video game movies are largely awful. Opinion alert: the only decent one I’ve ever seen was Silent Hill, and boy howdy, do people bag on that one.
I recall seeing Super Mario Bros. at the drive-in when I was twelve. Seeing movies at the drive-in was an experience – we didn’t go often, so it was a Big Deal. Maybe that clouds my memories of the film. Watching it gives me the warm-fuzzies somewhere in my nostalgia gland. But aside from that, I genuinely like the film, despite its base awfulness and the horror stories from behind the scenes. Yes, Hoskins and Leguizamo were drunk for a large part of the movie. Hopper was scheduled to be on set for a little over a month, and ended up being there for about four. The film cost twice as much as it made at the box office. Super Mario Bros. waffles between being a kids flick and having scenes that are decidedly adult in nature. I mean, honestly now, the relationship between King Koopa and his right hand woman Lena (Fiona Shaw, playing it crisp and snooty as she does best) gets a little weird at times. There’s a strange sexual current running below the surface in most of Shaw’s scenes that’s both jarring and somehow magnetic. But then you remember that this is supposed to be a MARIO BROS. movie what the fuck. The scenes with Iggy and Spike work the best in the long run – Stevens and Edson have a decent sense of comedic timing here and are probably the film’s highlight. It’s still a hoot to see Bob Hoskins as Mario, considering Tom Hanks (!!) had secured the role originally. Dennis Hopper eats the scenery with a knife and fork and manages to look like he’s enjoying the part. Lance Henriksen inexplicably shows up for a five second cameo at the end, long enough to deliver a totally awful line of dialogue, but it’s Lance Fucking Henriksen you guys! Show some goddamn respect!
At the end of the day, Super Mario Bros. is not a good film. I won’t claim that it is a good film. But I will defend it as one of the best bad films I’ve ever seen. I’m awfully fond of it, but I’ve never had good taste in film. Or anything. At some point, not long after the opening credits, the entire movie kind of shrugs and says, “oh fuck it, let’s just go balls out” and revels it its terribleness. I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it without giving them at least a 40oz. of some kind of malt liquor. Trust me, I say, you’ll thank me for this and, handing them the can, I let them know that they’re about to experience the film from Bob Hoskins’s point of view – totally shitwrecked.