|In Short:||Wacky, highly-evolved dinosaurs from a parallel dimension!|
|MARIO:||I got two words for you: im possible.|
|LUIGI:||Nothing’s impossible, Mario. Improbable, unlikely, but never impossible.|
|KOOPA:||Do you know what I love about mud? It’s clean and it’s dirty at the same time.|
|TV NEWS REPORTER:||I'd call them the Super Mario Brothers.|
(I could go on. And on!)
There’s a quote from Australian band The Whitlams’ song “Laugh in Their Faces” that I really, really like: “You’re getting happier by the minute and they wouldn’t have a clue about what it’s like to be lazy when you’ve got too much to do.” It applies to me so often, and right now, it is remarkably, terrifyingly apt. Because I have so, so much to do -- an entire magazine to put out, in fact -- but I’m getting happier by the minute because I am about to be terrifically, incorrigibly lazy: I’m about to watch the movie Super Mario Bros. for about the seven hundredth time.
Excuse me a minute... or, rather, 104 of them.
Okay, I’m back! And I am pleased to report that that time, my friends, was just as much fun as the previous six hundred and ninety-nine. Oh, Mario! Oh, Luigi! Oh, Princess Daisy and you wacky, highly-evolved dinosaurs from a parallel dimension! I love you guys. You don’t make a bit of sense as a story resulting out of the Super Mario Bros. game, of course, but who cares? Wacky, highly-evolved dinosaurs from a parallel dimension! Those seven words right there should tell you all you need to know about this film.
But before we look at this movie in depth, as it rightfully deserves, let’s go back, back in time to when we first met the elder of the brothers Mario -- then called Jumpman -- in Nintendo’s seminal 1981 game classic, Donkey Kong. For anyone too young or too cool to have played it, it was a platform game in which you (Jumpman) had to rescue Lady, the captive of a giant ape for no good reason that I can recall. Donkey Kong had an inexhaustible supply of barrels -- again, for no good reason -- with which to confound your attempts and you had to jump over them and up a series of girders, your timing critical, until finally reaching Lady and defeating her primate captor. You also had to collect an assortment of accessories along the way: hats, handbags, I think a parasol. It was way more fun than it sounds.
Jumpman returned a couple of years later, in Nintendo’s 1983 follow up, Mario Bros., getting himself a proper name (Mario), a profession (plumbing) and a brother (Luigi). Together, Mario and Luigi tackled various monsters apparently loitering in New York’s sewer system -- again, better than you’d think from that description. Then, of course, came 1985’s much revered Super Mario Bros., which was the top-selling videogame for more than twenty years, (until Wii Sports took over in 2009). Super Mario Bros. pitted Mario and Luigi against the dastardly Bowser (AKA King Koopa) and his minions as they valiantly attempted -- and, in my case, generally failed -- to rescue the Mushroom Kingdom’s winsome Princess Toadstool.
You notice what’s missing here? That’s right: wacky, highly-evolved dinosaurs from a parallel dimension! Happily, we have the movie to set to rights this terrible oversight.
We begin with a little digitally animated Earth history and a baby being left on a convent doorstep, and then we return to the then-present to meet Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo), down-at-heels plumbers who are constantly losing jobs to the peons of powerful goon, Scapelli (Gianni Russo). Scapelli is also the contractor who was breaking ground on a new development in Brooklyn when his men unearthed dinosaur bones; the site is closed while a team of eager paleontologists discover many new varieties -- some with opposable thumbs -- of these ancient terrible lizards.
The leader of the science team is the young and earnest Daisy (Samantha Mathis -- one could hardly have a heroine called Toadstool, and in 1993 her alternate name, Peach, hadn’t yet caught on; she is doubtless named for Princess Daisy from 1989’s Super Mario Land for Gameboy). Threatened by Scapelli, Daisy goes in search of a payphone to call for additional security (1993 = very few cell phones; it’s hard to remember that, sometimes) and that is when Luigi falls head-over-heels in love with her. It’s adorably awkward, but in the end Daisy ends up on a double date with Luigi, Mario and Mario’s girlfriend Daniella (Dana Kaminski)… later that night, showing Luigi where she works, Scapelli’s men attempt to flood the dig site, plumber Mario is called to the rescue, and then the Mario Bros. -- not yet especially super, it must be conceded -- get knocked on the head as Daisy is abducted and taken through to another dimension.
Y’see, Daisy was that baby abandoned on the doorstep, and left with her was a small piece of the meteorite that crashed into the Earth 65 million years ago. That event had not sent the dinosaurs extinct, however, but had merely sent them into a parallel dimension; they know we’re on the other side, living the good life while their world is barren and desolate. King Koopa (Dennis Hopper), and his assistant Lena (Fiona Shaw) seek the rock fragment because apparently they’ll be able to re-merge our two universes with it and then take over our abundant plains with the judicious application of their de-evolving technology. Koopa had previously de-evolved the former King of the dinosaur realm, Daisy’s father, into a giant fungus, so it seems like a solid plan.
The former King, incidentally, had been spreading all over the city since his de-evolution. Now, see, isn’t that clever? Mushroom Kingdom!
And this is not the only element of the game to be incorporated into the movie -- oh, no! For a start, Koopa has a legion of simpleton footsoldiers known as Goombas (though considerably bigger than the ones in the games); Mario and Luigi, having crossed the dimensional barrier and seeking to rescue Daisy, don their signature red and green overalls with coordinating caps; frequent video game sounds are heard, like the 1-Up and Bonus chirrups; Yoshi and Toad make an appearance; several weapons are lifted straight out of the game; and, now that I think about it, maybe the highly-evolved dinosaurs from another dimension thing isn’t such a stretch, after all. King Koopa and his Clan are kind of humanoid reptiles, after all. Also, this movie clears up one persistent mystery: if one of the brothers is named Mario, then how can they be the Mario brothers?
|DESK SERGEANT:||Last name?|
|DESK SERGEANT:||And you?|
|DESK SERGEANT:||Luigi Luigi?|
|LUIGI:||No, Luigi Mario.|
|DESK SERGEANT:||Okay, how many Marios are there between the two of you?|
|LUIGI:||Three: Mario Mario and Luigi Mario.|
John Leguizamo is so cute and goofy in this movie, and Bob Hoskins does Mario’s mustache proud. Fisher Stevens, as simpleton cousin of Koopa, Spike, is a riot and Fiona Shaw as the villainous Lena is at once captivating and terrifying -- and so very well dressed! Even now, despite the almost two decades of fashion that have passed since this movie was made, her outfits are just gorgeous and I want every one. (Were I ever to cosplay, it will be as Lena from Super Mario Bros.)
You know what I always forget is so great about this movie, until I watch it again? The music. Not just the soundtrack, which features the Divinyls, Roxette and George Clinton’s repurposed cover of the infectious 80’s dancefloor hit “Walk the Dinosaur”, but also the score; from the tinny, beepily video gamey ditty at the beginning to the triumphant crescendo accompanying the celebrations after Koopa’s ultimate defeat (and which rival Munchkin Land’s after Dorothy’s house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East), it’s just the perfect accompaniment to what I consider the consummate videogame-based film.
I know this is not a popular opinion. Indeed, Super Mario Bros., the first ever live action movie made from a videogame, was a massive, unparalleled failure, both commercially and critically. Like Howard the Duck before it, and Speed Racer since, it is an adaptation of which I am almost alone in my adoration.
But, come on! Need I say it again? Wacky, highly-evolved dinosaurs from a parallel dimension! What more do you people want?
-- Rachel Hyland