Open the door, get on the floor…
In a strange but delightful bit of the news, 1993’s dreadful Super Mario Bros. movie shot to the top of Amazon’s video sales charts yesterday, bypassing recent releases Fast and Furious 9 and Zack Snyder’s Justice League to become Amazon’s best-selling movie. This surge in interest has been driven by the recent Nintendo Direct, wherein the publisher revealed the cast for its animated Super Mario Bros. feature, expected to premiere in late-2022.
Super Mario Bros. — as those of a certain age and bones will remember — was an ambitious but wholly unsuccessful attempt to transition the world of Mario, Luigi, Princess Daisy, and your favorite Super Mario Bros. character, Lena, into a feature-length, live-action endeavor. Though undeniably creative in concept, the resulting film is ultimately a chaotic and tonal mess, becoming both a critical and commercial disaster when it finally hit screens in the summer of 1993.
The movie sees Brooklyn plumbers Mario Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) thrust into a prehistoric, (but surprisingly cyberpunk), alternate universe known as “Dinohattan”. Bob-ombs, hideously conceived Goombas, Super Scopes as legitimate weapons, and even an animatronic Yoshi all put in an appearance in this incredibly bizarre take on the Mushroom Kingdom. And Lena, don’t forget your favorite character, Lena. The trippy neon ‘berg is presided over by our antagonist, human/dinosaur hybrid King Koopa — played with coke-addled fury by the dearly departed Dennis Hopper.
Cast and crew would both go on to regret Super Mario Bros.’ overblown and overbudgeted chaos. There were problems on set between Hopper and husband and wife directorial team Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, multiple script rewrites took place before and during production, and there were even major disputes in both the editing suite and the marketing department once the film was finally in the can.
Despite containing legitimately pioneering special effects, (plus that Roxette song everybody dug), the film’s stars have generally only spoken of the experience in strongly negative tones, with Hoskins brutally referring to Super Mario Bros. as the worst thing he had ever done. Some of these attitudes have lightened in recent years, and both Samantha Mathis (Princess Daisy) and Leguizamo have retrospectively spoken of their joy that the movie carries a certain tongue-in-cheek charm as a cult “classic” among modern fans.
Wherever you personally stand on this cinematic curiosity, I don’t think anybody expected to see it storming the charts some three decades later. Ahead of its time? Of course not. This is just the power of nostalgia and the might of “trending” topics. But the very fact that newcomers are still visiting King Koopa’s Dinohattan in 2021… It’s Almost Unreal.