When you think of the Mario series, what comes to mind? For me it’s not the blue skies, crushed tortoises and rogue fungus that your layman might cite. No, sir- I would recount intricate tales of seedy neon signs, cars that run on tramlines and raptors roaming the streets. Because they were in the games, right?
Oh my, Super Mario Bros. is a mess of a movie. But an entertaining mess, and one which every gamer has too see at least once in their lifetime. Why? Well, for starters it was the first game-to-film adaptation, and thus rather significant of the rising status of videogames in popular culture during the early-90s, with Nintendo reaching such peaks of decadence that they decided to allow the team behind the jiggery-faced Max Headroom adverts to adapt a franchise utilising their unique style. And by unique, I do of course mean completely and utterly insane. Let’s go through it, shall we?
This bewildering experience opens with shots of pixellated dinosaurs talking to us in wiseguy accents Joe Pesci would blush at. And yes, I did just say that we were being spoken to by talking pixellated dinosaurs- it’s that sort of film. Soon enough we’re witnessing a human child being born out of a dinosaur egg, undoubtedly a spectacle which was conceived by someone who had been hitting Mario’s mushrooms pretty hard.
We are soon introduced to our heroes, but before we question why Luigi (played by Respected Actor John Leguizamo) lacks facial hair, we suddenly cut to the Mario Brothers driving around New York in an ice cream truck and talking about the instinctive abilities of sea turtles. Unfortunately, I’m being completely serious. Actually, Leguizamo’s acting really should be highlighted for a moment because it really has to be seen to be believed- prowling around like a hispanic tiger, he comes across as a snarling, teeth-glaring psychopath who finds glee in wrecking his “brother’s” business whilst stalking doe-eyed Princess Daisy. Oh, and while I’m at it- Bob Hoskins’ Mario isn’t his real brother. Actually, we are told at one point that Mario is Luigi’s mother.
Moving on swiftly, Mario is also presented as a vest-wearing, medallion-furnished pimp who stumbles into his moll’s house to seduce her with spaghetti, something obviously drawn from Super Mario: Goodfellas. When said moll is kidnapped, Mario treks down into an archaeological dig taking place in the city’s sewers which have witnessed the discovery of dinosaurs with the bodies of men. Now, let’s just stop for a minute and wonder why, considering these “ancient” remains were dug up in the man-made sewers of New York, such a dramatic discovery was never made during, say, the construction of these sewers. Surely the New York sanitation system isn’t that old?
Before long the brothers have fallen down one of Brooklyn’s notorious waterfalls (!) and stumbled into an identikit ‘80s dystopia, home to archvillain Dennis Hopper – a man who, aside from having hair reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House, enjoys delivering monologues whilst dipping his hands in pots of wax for no reason whatsoever. On a side note, why does “King” Koopa apparently need to campaign for president? And what kind of idiots vote for a guy who locks everyone up in animal cages and makes them dance? He must have a really good PR person, that’s all I’m saying.
Other highlights of the film? Well, Luigi is frequently alluded to as having psychic powers, every binman in Koopa’s world wears a gimp suit, and the world’s currency changes halfway through. When you see Mario proclaim to a jet-booted Queen Latifah impersonator that he’s “her man, her Ramadan, her can of spam” you really will be gnawing off your own legs in mind-shattering confusion, and even after that you have dancing trenchoated dinosaurs, a man being set on fire and trying to put the flames out by playing his harmonica and Luigi trying to coerce his “brother” into suicide to look forward to.
So dim the lights, grab some popcorn and settle down with this 1993 classic- it really is an experience you’ll never forget. Just don’t mention it to Bob ‘Oskins- he regularly cites this as the worst experience of his life. Gulp.