Thursday, April 17, 2008

Super Mario Bros.: The Movie

I thought it would make a nice change of pace for the site to review the first major film based on a video game (no, The Wizard doesn’t count). Really now, how many hundreds of times can you see someone impaled on a spike before you get a jonesing for something a little different? And different is exactly what one gets with this film. The people working on this film had to overcome two hurdles in making this: for one, they had the task of crafting the first real video game movie, with no previous works to look at to see how one should be going about doing it. For two, they were making a movie based on a game that, narrative wise, was completely off the rails insane. Needless to say, their options weren’t looking all too hopeful here.

It’s a nice surprise, then, that they actually managed to make the film fairly decent. The film follows ace plumber Mario Mario (played with aplomb by Bob Hoskins) and his kid brother Luigi (John Leguizamo) as they try to rescue a woman from two thugs and find themselves dragged into a parallel world where dinosaurs had evolved to look human. The leader of these people, in this thoroughly 90s steampunkish world, is King Koopa (Dennis Hopper), who wants the woman they’re hoping to save, as she’s a princess that has the ability to merge the dinosaur world with the human one, with the presumable aftereffect of all the humans being enslaved or wiped out or something.

What makes the film work, aside from the sheer lunacy of it (seriously, they get helped out by a giant fungus, how can you not like that?), is the hammy charm of the actors involved. Hopper has made a career out of this, of course, but Hoskins does a good job keeping pace with him. It’s certainly not a great film, or even an especially good one, as there are too many sections that tend to drag, and the steampunk dino world is simply not as visually entertaining as one closer to that of the games would be, but it largely does its job. The tone of the film does occasionally get a bit too dark for the material, probably due in part to its visual style, but it largely manages to stay light and quirky, and fun enough for what it’s supposed to be. Don’t watch this expecting anything as good as the games themselves, but if you’re interested in just a strange little side jaunt in Mario’s history, this is worth at least one watch.

Rating: ** ½

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