Given the recent and tragic passing of actor Bob Hoskins, I felt it would be appropriate to pay tribute to his greatest cinematic achievement: the film adaption of Super Mario Bros.
And yes, I said love. Not “enjoy”, not “like ironically” but genuinely love. Call me crazy, but I’ve never understood all the hate this film gets. Is it dumb? Well, yes. It’s a 90’s non-Disney kids movie, so of course it’s going to be dumb. Does it deviate from the source material? Well, again, yes. Of course it does. How are you going to have a live-action version of the games? And if your answer to that is “they shouldn’t have tried in the first place” then go home because I’m grounding you.
The point I’m trying to make here is that, for all its stupidity, everyone involved with this movie genuinely tried. The movie cost $48 million to make, starred some quite good actors, and overall there was a genuine effort to do something different with this film. But hey, let’s take a look, shall we?
The movie opens with a cloaked woman running through the streets of Brooklyn carrying a large bundle. She leaves it at the door of a church because apparently leaving babies on church doorsteps is a fucking epidemic. Except it’s not a baby, it’s an egg, but it actually is a baby because the egg hatches and there’s a baby in there.
Look, just based off the opening alone this is already the greatest film ever made, but let’s continue.
Years later, we meet our heroes: Mario Mario, played of course by Bob Hoskins, and Luigi Mario, played by a non-mustachioed John Leguizamo for some reason. The baby is now a grown woman named Daisy, played by Samantha Mathis. The Mario Bros. are, of course, plumbers, and Daisy is an archaeology student. Luigi falls for her immediately, and because plumbers are just so goddamn sexy, Daisy falls for him as well.
Through a series of twists and turns, Daisy is kidnapped by two strange men and dragged through a portal. Mario and Luigi follow, finding themselves plummeting into an alternate dimension. As to why there’s a portal underneath Brooklyn, fuck if I know. Don’t think about things too hard, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The Bros. find themselves in the Mushroom Kingdom and holy shit look how awesome that is. Far removed from the bright and colorful setting of the games, the film’s Mushroom Kingdom is a dark and seedy cyberpunk dystopia that looks like something straight out of Blade Runner. This is where the film’s budget starts to really become apparent, and regardless of your feelings on the movie you have to admire the work and creativity that went into making it.
Before long we’re properly introduced to the film’s villains. Instead of Bowser, we’ve got President Koopa, played by Dennis Hopper, who looks like the bastard child of Max Headroom and Ric Flair. There’s also Lena, his wife or whatever, and Iggy and Spike, Koopa’s idiotic cousins. They, of course, kidnapped Daisy, but they forgot something just as important: her meteorite piece, which Mario currently has.
You see, as it turns out, instead of a meteorite wiping out the dinosaurs, it split the world into two parallel dimensions: ours, and a world where the dinosaurs kept on living and eventually evolved into human-like beings. One of the pieces of the meteorite was stolen and brought to the human world along with Daisy, and apparently putting it back will merge the two worlds together because science.
And of course, this is just what Koopa wants. Unsurprisingly, the Mushroom Kingdom sucks, and Koopa wants to merge the two worlds, de-evolve humans into monkeys, and take over the human world. Of course, the sorry state of the Mushroom Kingdom seems to be his fault anyway, so y’know.
Dennis Hopper’s performance is part of what makes this movie so great. You see, Koopa doesn’t just chew the scenery… he DEVOURS it. He’s like a fat kid at a buffet. Every time he’s on screen he hams it up to a ridiculous degree. It’s truly a sight to behold.
Meanwhile, Mario and Luigi meet two other colorful characters: Big Bertha, who is apparently based on one of the fish enemies from the games, and Toad. Yes, Toad, the screechy-voiced mushroom guy, is instead some sort of stoner. Well, alright.
As for Big Bertha, she’s the greatest character in cinematic history. Big Bertha is the bouncer at the Boom Boom Bar, but more on that later. Big Bertha makes her debut by throwing an old lady off a ledge, stealing the meteorite piece from Mario, and then flying away on rocket boots. I think I’m in love.
The Brothers and Toad are quickly arrested. While Mario and Luigi are questioned by Koopa, Toad is painfully de-evolved into what is apparently supposed to be a Goomba. Yes, I know, the likeness is uncanny. The Goombas are massive but unintelligent soldiers of Koopa, and hey… they’re actually kinda cute! You know, in an unspeakable terror kind of way.
The Marios escape in an awesome cyberpunk police car, and the Koopa cousins are further-evolved to make them more intelligent. However, they turn on Koopa, and assist the Bros. in recovering the meteorite piece.
Meanwhile, Daisy learns that she’s actually the princess, and her father, the king, was de-evolved into the fungus seen covering the city. Also, she meets Yoshi and OH MY GOD LOOK AT THAT LITTLE MUNCHKIN I WANT ONE
So in a brilliant and genre-defining scene, our heroes go to the Boom Boom Bar where Mario successfully seduces Big Bertha and recovers the meteorite piece. As Goombas arrive to arrest them, Big Bertha helps them escape and we’re treated to the hottest movie kiss of all time.
The Mario Bros. sneak into Koopa’s base and finally, like an hour into the movie, they put on their famous outfits. Or close approximations anyway. Honestly, I kind of like ’em. With the help of a Goomba-fied Toad, they release Daisy and head off to stop Koopa.
However, while Mario faces off against Koopa, Lena has managed to get her hands on the meteorite piece and briefly manages to merge the worlds before Luigi and Daisy pull it back out. This leads to the greatest sequence in cinematic history.
Koopa points his de-evolution gun at Mario, who dives out of the way. This results in another unfortunate man getting turned into a chimpanzee, which Koopa clearly enjoys immensely. Pointing, with a satisfied grin plastered across his face, Koopa speaks, nay, DECLARES: “munky”.
I love this movie.
Once they return to the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario, with the aid of a Bob-Omb, uses the de-vo gun on Koopa, turning him into a Bowser-like t-rex. However, before he’s able to really do anything, he de-evolves into primeval ooze.
So the day is saved and everyone is happy. Well, everyone except Luigi, because Daisy decides to stay in the Mushroom Kingdom for no real reason. Life returns to normal, until Daisy comes back for their help once again, setting the stage for a sequel that will sadly never happen.
So that’s Super Mario Bros. Is it perfect? No. Is it stupid? Yes. Is it entertaining? No doubt about it. I’ve seen this movie about 8 times by this point, and honestly I never get tired about it. No matter how many people criticize it, or how many of the actors disavowed it, I maintain that Super Mario Bros. is a highly underrated and enjoyable movie. I honestly feel that if the Mario Bros. references were removed and it had been called Dimension of the Dinosaurs or some shit, there wouldn’t have been nearly as bad of a reaction. If you’re the kind of person who can shut your brain off and enjoy a good dumb movie, give Super Mario Bros. a watch. If not, go to your room because I grounded you at the beginning of the article.
I give Super Mario Bros. 4.5 MUNKYS out of 5.