The people who freaked out over the now-delayed Sonic the Hedgehog movie and its weird character designs have obviously never crossed paths with 1993's Super Mario Bros. film. Directed by the husband-and-wife team of Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, the live-action adaptation of Nintendo's moneymaker aimed for the stars but landed firmly in the drain pipe.
In an interview with The Guardian, the late Bob Hoskins, who portrayed Mario in the film, was asked, "If you could edit your past, what would you change?" He replied, "I wouldn't do Super Mario Bros.," which was something that most of the people involved in this disasterpiece reiterated at some point after its release. Even though the source material is bonkers enough to begin with, the movie took it to the next level with a puzzling storyline and equally bizarre aesthetic.
Looking at the plot on paper, however, it's similar to the premise of Super Mario World and the other games in the series. Two Brooklyn plumbers, brothers Mario (Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo), travel to another dimension to rescue Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis) from the evil King Koopa (Dennis Hopper). Along the way, they meet and interact with popular characters and creatures from the franchise and adopt the Super Mario Bros. moniker by the end of the film.
Sheesh! This sounds great and just like those days spent burning up that NES cartridge until the wee hours of the morning, right? Well, someone forgot to actually play the game and take any notes, because this movie played out like a bad prequel to Theodore Rex with a Tommy Wiseau-penned script. Reportedly, the script was rewritten on a daily basis while the actors drank away their sorrows to cope with the chaos around them.
Moreover, the designs for the other-dimensional creatures looked like a merger of the Muppets, Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, and a wild weekend in Ibiza. Gone was the cute aesthetic of the adorable shiitake mushrooms and cuddly dinosaurs, making way for nightmare fuel in the shape of hulking dino-humanoids with tiny heads. The Goombas looked nothing like they did in the video games, wearing red trench coats with spikes on their shoulders and sporting the same vacant expression as the studio execs who greenlit this project.
While the whole movie could be a giant WTF moment in itself, the Koopa Troop stooges stole the limelight in a hilariously bad scene. In fact, it's one of those it's-so-bad-that-it's-good sequences that should be immortalized in cinema history for future generations to relive and cherish.
The peak of all peaks arrives around the 70-minute mark in the film. With Mario and Luigi now kitted out in their iconic outfits and rocking "Thwomp Stompers," they pop into an elevator to get to Princess Daisy. A spanner is thrown into the works, however, as two Goombas enter the lift as well. Fortunately the brothers aren't noticed, as the noticeable size difference helps them to keep out of sight and dodge the creatures.
Things take a turn for the worse, though, as even more Goombas fill the elevator. With nowhere to run or hide, Luigi decides to improvise and make full use of Frankie Yankovic's polka-powered "Somewhere, My Love," which blares out of the elevator speakers. Luigi sways the Goombas to the infectious melody — much to Mario's shock — and the creatures lose themselves in the music. Before long, everyone is moving in sync and putting boy band choreographers to shame, while Mario and Luigi climb out of the elevator's escape hatch.
Overwhelmed by their happy feet, the Goombas turn to each other and waltz away to Yankovic's classic tune. Their glee comes to a grinding halt, unfortunately, as the elevator doors open and a shocked Goomba barks orders at them. The dance is put on ice and they flip back into serious mode. Hopefully, the poor Goombas didn't receive written warnings for finding some joy in the miserable Dinohattan.
Of course, more laughs followed in the third act as this train wreck of a movie jackknifed itself at every corner. It's a meme-a-minute type of adventure where the actors are just as surprised as everyone else watching the film and wondering what the hell is going on.
Look, Super Mario Bros. is the furthest thing from a good movie. Even so, the sheer insanity of its production, narrative, and Goomba character design added a cult-like quality to it. It's one of those films that everyone talks about and remembers (if not for the proper reasons), so it must've done something right. At the end of the day, though, it provided the laughs and still looks like Citizen Kane next to any of Uwe Boll's video game adaptations.