Super Mario Bros. is one of the strangest films of the early 1990s, and that’s both a positive and negative. As you may imagine, it’s based on the Nintendo video game of the same name. The idea of doing the film came to noted director Roland Joffé but he didn’t direct the film (although he did direct some reshoots)—the helm was given to the creators of the cult classic satirical cyberpunk TV show Max Headroom.
The film makes little sense. Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) are New York plumbers. Luigi has the hots for Daisy (Samantha Mathis) who is a student digging up dinosaur bones in New York City. Two henchmen kidnap Daisy, and Mario and Luigi soon find a portal into a dimension where the universe is a dystopian world run by the dictator King Koopa (Dennis Hopper). They have to save Daisy and make sure both universes don’t merge into one.
The film has been a joke ever since it came out, but it does have some redeeming features. The set design is almost Brazil-lite and is impressive to this day, the humour is sometimes extremely dated and cheesy but it does have some nice satire courtesy of the fact that the directors created Max Headroom. Dennis Hopper also gives a performance so over the top that it becomes almost genius, prefiguring his performance in another notorious ‘90s film, Waterworld.
Bob Hoskins has been on record as saying it was the worst thing he ever did and that he regretted it very much. He is actually fine as Mario, and certainly is as perfectly cast as possible for everyone’s favourite red-suited video game character. The same can be said for John Leguizamo, who although he also for years regretted the film, has since developed a more positive view and is featured in the fantastic “making of” featurette included on this Blu-Ray. It also features a bizarre cameo from the cowpunker Mojo Nixon that adds a extra bit of surrealism to an already bonkers film.
The film’s failure basically killed the careers of directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, sadly, and they moved back into making commercials and music films. It was the first live-action film based on a video game, and compared to the many that have followed it’s a lot better and more entertaining. It actually had some vision, if one that was very comprised by infighting between the directors and producers over the tone of the film (the directors wanted to make a much darker film.)
Genre:Family, Adventure Distributor: Second Sight BD/DVD Release Date:3rd November 2014 Rating:PG Director: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper Buy: Super Mario Bros: The Motion Picture [Blu-ray]