Awfully Good: Super Mario Bros.

After the passing of the awesome Bob Hoskins, we revisit the film he called “the worst thing I ever did”…

Super Mario Bros. (1984)

Director: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton
Stars: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper

A female paleontologist is kidnapped and taken to another dimension by dinosaur humanoids and it’s up to two unwitting Brooklyn plumbers to save her.

You know a movie is truly bad when you even hate it as a child. I remember walking out of SUPER MARIO BROS. at 9 years old, furious at what my Nintendo-loving eyeballs had been subjected to. (And keep in mind, this was the same year I also watched and enjoyed TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III.) At that point in my life I didn’t know anything about what went in to making a film, but I still knew the people responsible for this had failed at life.

Well, they’re turning the Ninja Turtles in to aliens. Why not?

There may not be a lot to work with plot-wise from the source material, but anyone with a toadstool for a brain could’ve come up with a better adaptation than this. For some reason, directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton (who rightfully never got another job in Hollywood again) decided to turn a fun, creative, carefree children’s video game in to a dark, joyless adult action-drama. This movie will bore the crap out of anyone under 10 and simply confuse every other age group. Here’s the plot in a nutshell: The meteorite that struck earth didn’t kill the dinosaurs; it just knocked them in to another subterranean dimension. After millions of years of evolving, King Koopa needs to get a magic crystal so that he can merge his world with ours and live on Earth. So he sends his goons to New York City to kidnap Princess Daisy and bring back the rock. Yes, that’s right. He already has a portal to Earth. Clearly, he’s doing it wrong.

King Koopa can eat a peach for hours.

I will say that whoever cast Dennis Hopper as King Koopa deserves either an award or a free tab of acid. It’s spectacularly bad casting, especially given the ridiculous things the script has him say and do. (This is how bad the screenplay is: The first time we see Hopper, he recites a speech of pure exposition that gives a history of their world, explains the conflict and lays out his future evil plan.) The Easy Rider actor entertainingly plays Koopa as a sleazy politician, one who’s obsessed with things that are “fresh and clean,” and who also happens to be a horny dinosaur. He uses a De-Evolution Gun (a Nintendo Super Scope painted black) to create an army of idiot lizard henchmen called Goombas. He also has two slightly smarter nephews to do his dirty work, one of whom is played by a thoroughly embarrassed Fisher Stevens.

I want to see this thing fight the Matt Damon puppet from TEAM AMERICA for ultimate DERP supremacy.

Speaking of “thoroughly embarrassed”—boy, do I feel bad for Bob Hoskins in this. If you pay attention, you can actually see the talented British thespian glaring at his agent off camera. His Mario Mario (yep) is relegated to painfully awkward subplots that involve burying his head in a corpulent woman’s cleavage, going on a raft rollercoaster ride with some Goombas, and encouraging a bunch of overgrown lizards to slow dance. John Leguizamo and Samantha Mathis don’t come off any better as Luigi and Daisy, but this is way, way beneath someone like Hoskins.

Neutrogena; for those days when you have dry, interdimensional skin.

SUPER MARIO BROS. is amazingly bad on its own, but it’s even worse if you’re a fan of the video game. Their version of Toad is just some musician with a wacky haircut (until he gets turned in to a Goomba). Yoshi is a scary mini-velociraptor that no one in their right mind would want to ride. Princess Daisy’s father The King is a metaphysical fungus/ooze hybrid that grows all over the town. Mario does have boots that let him jump higher in the least graceful and functional way possible. Plus, the entire dark alternate-universe has an air of political subversiveness that I’m sure the whole family will love.

Clever girl(s).

And sadly it ends with an obvious set up for a sequel that I almost want to see out of sheer curiosity. There’s no way they could possibly top the abhorrent awfulness of this one — short of actively coming to each theater and setting the audience on fire.

The best of Dennis Hopper’s memorable Koopa performance with a little John Leguizamo thrown in for good measure.

Koopa is a horny lizard, Mario goes chubby chasing and much more.

Samantha Mathis doesn’t PUMP UP THE VOLUME and Dennis Hopper keeps his dinosaur bits to himself.

Got an extra life? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • There’s actually a reference to the video game
  • Dennis hopper says “Plumbers”
  • Mario gets zapped or sprayed
  • Someone says “Trust the fungus”
  • An old lady gets thrown

Double shot if:

  • Mario buries his face in to cleavage

Thanks to Kevin and Roger for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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