Super Mario Bros is a film I avoided at the time because (a) it didn’t look great, and (b) most videogames just do not make good films. However, a re-release, years down the line, gives us the chance to reappraise certain works, or even try them for the first time, and the latter is a case in point here because I didn’t realise until now that the directors were Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, best known for their work on Max Headroom, starring Matt Frewer.
As for Super Mario Bros – the videogame, it’s one of the all-time classics. The simple graphics, the memorable music, the instant appeal and easy-to-pick-up gameplay… it’s got it all. But has the film?
Samantha Mathis is one of those names I’ve not seen in a film for a long time, in fact since 1996’s Broken Arrow. Here she plays the decidely tomboyish Daisy, and she’s taken the lead in a students archaeological dig – trying to uncover the reason for what happened to all the dinosaurs.
What? You think they all died out 65 million years ago? Really? What if they, instead, ended up in an parallel universe and continue to thrive? It could happen…
Meanwhile, local mob boss-type Scapelli (Gianni Russo) wants to hustle her and them all off the land, threatening that she’ll join the ranks of Brooklyn’s missing girls if she continues to crack wise. Well, when I say “threatening”, I mean as much as you can do for a PG certificate. We’re not exactly talking Boko Haram, here.
Brooklyn plumbers Mario (the late, great Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) get caught up in all of this, while underground, another actor who’s sadly passed on – Dennis Hopper – plays Koopa, President of the dinosaurs, and inhabits a world which looks very Blade Runner-esque, but I later learned in the extras that this is because the production designer was David L Snyder who worked on… yep. Koopa is still irked about being stuck underground for all this time, while needing Daisy, who he refers to as Princess Daisy, along with the piece of meteorite she has on a chain around her neck. With this, he can get into the real world and take over.
There’s also an appearance from musician Mojo Nixon as Toad arrested for singing an Koopa protest song, and those who go against the President effectively get lobotomised. If you think you’ve heard the name Mojo Nixon before, there’s one awesome song I certainly remember him for: Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child , the video for which features Winona Ryder in the role of Debbie Gibson.
As for the film? Well, apart from the obvious connections thrown in, with the characters and mentions of elements such as mushrooms and so on, it feels like it has as much to do with the Super Mario Bros videogame as the recent film Frank has to do with Frank Sidebottom. It’s like it’s completely divorced from the videogame franchise, and also like it’s aimed primarily at pre-school children, such is the silly and childish antics on view, but I think even they would have a hard time swallowing this nonsense.
Hence, if you really must see this, like me, for its curiosity value, then knock yourself out – the picture is as good as it’s ever going to get, but I stuck with it mainly for Mathis. Hoskins, Leguizamo and Hopper have all been far, far better. As you’d expect. That said, together, they must have a certain charm as I felt like sticking with it, if only to see how it’d turn out.
Oh, and there’s also a brief, post-credits scene.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.