Creative Loafing - Charlotte
Mario Bros. Is Anything But Super
June 2, 1993 by Matt Brunson
1 out of 4 stars
While others scoffed at the idea of a major motion picture being based on a popular Nintendo video game, I held my breath as best as I could. Sure, the move to turn Super Mario Bros. into a feature film seemed to prove conclusively that Hollywood had indeed run completely out of fresh ideas. At the same time, the areas of computer and video technology have allowed man to metaphorically explore new universes, and a movie that borrowed its elements from such an infinitely imaginative source had the potential to be something truly special.
The Mario brothers aren’t exactly three-dimensional characters on the video monitor, and that hasn’t changed in their transition to the movie screen. We barely get to meet plumbers Mario Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) before they’re whisked away for the adventure of their lives: They must travel to an alternate planet known as Dinohattan, vanquish the evil ruler known as Koopa (Dennis Hopper), rescue the spunky princess (Samantha Mathis), and in effect save our beloved planet Earth.
The problem isn’t the comic book plot (after all, Star Wars shares some of these elements), but rather in how screenwriters Parker Bennett (Mystery Date), Terry Runte (ditto) and Ed Solomon (the Bill & Ted flicks) develop it. After a tedious beginning, the film kicks into high gear for a series of great escapes and swashbuckling stunts. This locomotive approach works for Cliffhanger, where the action is exciting and breathtaking, but not here, where it’s merely frenzied and chaotic.
The production design by David L. Snyder (Blade Runner) would be more impressive if it weren’t so familiar, but it’s nearly identical to the schematic layouts employed in such sci-fi excursions as Total Recall. And familiarity apparently breeds contempt, since the sets prove to be distractingly ugly. Indeed, the whole film is unpleasant to look at, from the ridiculous Goomba creatures that serve as Dinohattan’s enforcers to the slime that plays a key role in the proceedings. Ultimately, the film’s drab look strips it of the childlike sense of wonder that a PG-rated fantasy such as this should inherently possess.
Directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (TV’s Max Headroom) don’t fare much better with the actors: Hopper gives a grab-the-paycheck-and-run-like-hell performance as the villain, while Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) and Richard Edson (Do the Right Thing) are insufferable as his Stooge-like assistants. Hoskins and Leguizamo are both appealing actors, but they simply have nothing with which to work.
Memorial Day weekend releases used to be tantalizing indicators of the sort of quality pictures that would be coming our way for the rest of the summer. But between Hudson Hawk in 1991, Alien 3 in ’92, and now this, I’m beginning to think that potential moviegoers will be spending a lot more time burning by the pool.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
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