The Surfing Pizza Takes On Super Mario Bros: The Movie

Super Mario Bros was released to theaters in the summer of 1993. Expected in every way to be a blockbuster, the $42 million dollar film was unleashed alongside a full line of action figures, t-shirts, lunch boxes, and trading cards. The film even ended on a cliffhanger, alluding to a future sequel and a video game spin-off. But the film flopped, and all of this went away quietly, only to be a puzzling footnote of my generation’s collective nostalgia. And next to that footnote, we have a question. What the hell was that?

You see, this isn’t even the kind of movie that we’ve seen on TV over the years. It never sunk in or marinated in our brains. We saw it once in 1993 and perhaps once in adulthood when we found it in the five dollar DVD bargain box at Wal-Mart. And we’re still asking, what the hell was that?

I’m going to attempt to break it down in this review, and I’m using the movie trading cards as a guide. Yes, I own a complete set. But not for collecting. For documenting. There is a saying, “those who cannot remember the past will be condemned to repeat it.”

Let’s go back to 1993 for a moment. That was the year I was twelve—the year that happy, idyllic, cherubic childhood slipped away—to be replaced with greasy hormonal awkwardness and bad haircuts. It was the year I began middle school. The kids at the bus stop were tall and mean. One of them even smoked cigarettes.

There would be no more picking out lunchboxes with my favorite character. Brown bags and anonymity were the laws of middle school. No more crayola-colored carpets and posters of Bert and Ernie reading books. No more of the pleasant, smiling teachers who doted on me. The halls of middle school were lined with cold, clanging lockers and posters about the dangers of drugs. The teachers were staid and bloodless. One of them even had a glass eye.

It seemed as though I existed in between two worlds, and many of the films I saw in the theater that year seemed to mirror my predicament. We saw Jurassic Park, and the awe and magic of that film instantly placed me back in my childhood, though it was a world I knew I was leaving behind.

Meanwhile, America’s favorite kid—sweet, lovable Macaulay Culkin—took on a creepy role in The Good Son, where he played this freaking nutso kid. There’s that scene where he drops a dummy off the highway overpass and kills like fifty people. And there’s that scene where his own mother kills him by throwing him over a cliff.

Ummm, whoa.

Hold me Free Willy. Hold me tight. The tale of the boy and his whale also hit the theaters in 1993. You knew he was going to make that jump at the end—it was even on the movie poster you before you entered the theater—but you still gripped your seat. Okay, okay. *I* still gripped my seat. SWIM, WILLY, SWIM!

Next there was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, which on the surface, was harmless. But underneath, there was something unsettling about it. I was only twelve, but I was already witnessing the cheapening and cashing out of my childhood. The costumes were terrible, the mouths didn’t move in time with the dialogue, and it had a cheese-ass time travel plot. Despite all of this, I still believe the movie essentially captured the charm of the Turtles. After all, it contains the line, “Help, I’m a turtle and I can’t get up.”

Which brings me to Super Mario Bros. This movie did not simply cheapen my childhood. It utterly pillaged and plundered my childhood. And I’m not overstating it for effect. This was not just a bad movie. It was a toxic slurry of re-envisioned characters, bad writing cliches, and Bob Hoskin’s haunted, empty stare as Mario. If I lingered between the worlds of child and teenager before, this film forever cleaved those worlds apart, leaving me cynical and disillusioned.

The film starred critically-acclaimed actors, Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper, who compete here for best-career-casualty. It was an odd choice for Bob Hoskins to portray a fifty-one year old, balding, and clinically depressed Mario.

On the role, Hoskins would later recount, “The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers. It was a fuckin’ nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks their own agent told them to get off the set! Fuckin’ nightmare. Fuckin’ idiots.”

The film also starred a young John Leguizamo as Luigi, which I’ve always thought was an inspired choice. And I find it fitting that one of the cards depicts Luigi reading GamePro Magazine. What, no Nintendo Power? Well, as you’ll see, the film had absolutely nothing to do with Nintendo.

The story of Super Mario Bros, taken from the original Super Mario Bros Instruction Booklet is that the Mushroom Kingdom has fallen under a spell after being invaded by Koopa. Princess [Peach] Toadstool is the only one who can undo the spell, but she is being held captive by Koopa. Mario, the hero of the story, sets out on a quest to save her. And by now, we all know the next part of the story. The princess is always in another damn castle.

Let’s be objective for a moment and assume the writers didn’t have much to work with based on the Nintendo narrative alone. I’m all for artistic liberty. The plot could have been anything, as long as it involved saving a Princess at the end from an evil lizard king. Imagine a movie rendering of the Mushroom Kingdom. Bouncy mushrooms! Flat tree tops! Clouds with faces! Vines to coin heavens! Imagine live action versions of Bullet Bills, Piranha Plants, and the Hammer Brothers. Imagine all the people living for today.

Now let me begin to cut through the density of what the movie was instead.

A) Complete Bastardizations.

1. Instead, it was 1993, and dinosaurs were THE THING in a post-Jurassic Park world. Instead, we got this convoluted dinosaur plot in which sixty-five million years ago, a meteorite crashed into the Earth, ripping the universe into two parallel dimensions. In the parallel world, a human-like race evolved from dinosaurs rather than the mammalian ancestry of true humans.

2. And it’s almost as if they hastily rewrote the script at the last minute to incorporate the dinosaurs. There was no Mushroom Kingdom. Instead, there was Dinohattan. And the worst part is, the name Dinohattan wasn’t even used in the film itself. It only appears in related media and on the back of the film’s packaging. Suspicious.

3. King Koopa is a human. Played by Dennis Hopper sans eyebrows.

4. In the video games, Koopa’s name had already been changed to Bowser by 1993, but it really doesn’t matter, because seriously, why doesn’t he have eyebrows?

5. Speaking of names, the movie goes ahead and takes the liberty by establishing that Mario and Luigi’s last name is also Mario. Nintendo, however, has stated that Mario has no last name.

6. Goombas, the squishy brown walking mushroom things in the games, are now giant dinosaurs with tiny heads who wear suits.

7. Also, Yoshi is now an adorable miniature pet Raptor.

8. And Toad is some sort of post-apocalyptic punk rocker. Trivia: the last movie the actor appeared in was a film called Buttcrack in 1998. He appeared as Preacher Man Bob.

9. What the fuck ever.

10. In the movie, we have Princess Daisy who plays Luigi’s girlfriend. That’s fine, because Princess Daisy appeared in the Game Boy game, Super Mario Land. But where is Princess Peach, Mario’s girlfriend? She’s not here. Instead, there’s this generic Italian woman, Daniella.

11. And rounding out the main female characters is Lena. Who the hell is Lena? No idea.

B. Somehow Managed To Include Every Last All Time Bad Writing Movie Cliche

1. The pendant. It seems like every bad movie involves a pendant that contains magic powers that must be returned to its owner. Here, it’s only used as a MacGuffin to start the plot, and by the end of the movie, the pendant is largely forgotten.

2. Breaking a huge fall in a dumpster. Always happens in the movies. (Incidentally, last week in the New York snowstorm, a 26-year-old man jumped from the ninth floor of a Manhattan building. But in a twist of fate, the man was saved by a mound of uncollected trash. Crazy.)

3. A harmless-looking frail old lady whips out an Uzi. Seen this before.

4. Monkeys.

5. Side note: If a script absolutely must call for a monkey, have you ever noticed that good films manage to get those adorable little Capuchin monkeys? Bad films, it seems, always settle for a chimp.

6. Group dance sequence! They’re doing the “Dactyl,” which the movie clearly hopes would become a Thing. It never did.

7. White guy rap sequence! Which, according to the back of the card, actually includes the lyrics, “Koopa, the party poopa.” Yes.

8. Bonus points if your white guy rappers also happen to be hapless, bungling henchmen.

9. Vague Mafia-sounding evil corporation. In this case, Scapelli.

10. Bertha. Clearly, the film’s best character. And if you thought she was simply standing in as the film’s need for a caricature of a large sassy black woman with a ‘tude—you would be wrong. Because Bertha is actually based on the huge red fish that chases Mario in the underwater levels in the game.

11. Wait, what?

12. Damn it, I REALLY wish I didn’t waste five bucks on the DVD at Wal-Mart.

13. Hold me, Free Willy. Hold me tight.

32 thoughts on “The Surfing Pizza Takes On Super Mario Bros: The Movie

  1. Just some things I wanted to point out:

    Super Mario Bros. came out before Jurassic Park and had been written completely independently. It wasn’t retrofitted to fit a popular concept at the time, though dinosaurs certainly were popular.

    Daniella’s full name is “Daniella Pauline Veducci,” which means she was based off Mario’s girlfriend Pauline from the original Donkey Kong.

    The Dactyl dance and Spike & Iggy’s rap scene were cut from the final movie, which was too bad since Richard Edson (Spike) actually write the entire thing. We have the lyrics of the song and a short clip of that scene on our site, if you’re interested.

    1. you know, I thought that I didn’t remember the dance/rap scene from the movie, but decided not to research it because I was lazy, and I figured the movie was guilty either way to even consider a terrible cliche in its original vision.

      your site blows my mind. It’s amazing and terrifying at the same time. I wish I’d found it before I’d written my post.

      1. The dance/rap scene was probably cut for the better since it would have have been an easy thing to be made fun of. It would have only become dated in the long run as something very “’90s.”

        Still, a lot of people like the Boom Boom Bar scene, so that would have added more to it. Probably one of the most curious cuts.

        Thank you. As I pointed out via Twitter, the movie really does have a cult following to it. There’s many fans out there that are curious about the “story” behind the movie. We’ve had exclusive interviews with cast and crew that have only just begun to reveal what was really planned.

        Anyways, you’re welcome to join the board and post your review. You’d get a lot more comments that way.

        1. Excising the ‘Dactyl scene from the film isn’t exactly a loss on par with the Jitterbug from “The Wizard of Oz.”

          1. It actually is. That scene was amazingly choreographed and featured some of the best humor in the movie, not to mention Spike & Iggy actually rapping (which was mentioned later by Lena as them having been “preaching [Koopa’s] overthrow”.)

  2. I remember this movie back in the day being all hyped up. I was a huge Nintendo fan, but avoided this flick after being all amped up to go see it. I heard way too much bad from people who should’ve loved it. A lot like M. Night’s Last Airbender–a complete hatchet-job of the original material. Looking at these cards and your writeup, I’m glad I didn’t waste my money and time. I wonder how many people it takes to warrant a cult following? More than one?

    1. Well, we have about 95 members on our site as well as 30 more on our Facebook page. Doesn’t seem like much, but you have to realize not many people even know our site exists.

      There’s about a dozen Facebook pages for the movie and each has at least a hundreds Fans. So, adding that all up there’s at least 2,000 people guaranteed to like the movie. I’m sure there’s more.

  3. I, in fact recently bought this from the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. Yes, while it is horrible, it still has some charm. I didn’t see it in the theater, I stumbled across it on cable about 4 or 5 years later. Nintendo was a huge thing for me when I was younger, and I wanted to see this so badly. I thought The Wizard was better, but then again, most people think that is a crap-fest as well. Eventually I would like to get the trading card set, as well as a few of the action figures. If there is one redeeming thing about this movie, it has to be Bob-omb.

    And I like how you figured in the little John Lennon reference. :)

    1. I actually think the Wizard is good. the writing has heart, the cast is cool — I mean, Kevin Arnold, the chick from that band, whoever the autistic kid is, and Christian Slater. that’s a cool cast! way better than a drunk bob hoskins.

    2. The Wizard a crap-fest? Naw! That movie is great! It comes on HBO (or maybe Cinemax) every now and then–I always make time for it when it’s on. I love the Power Glove. It’s so Bad.

    3. Ah, yes The Wizard, if you are going to be comparing bad early 90s Nintendo movies, The Wizard easily wins out. To someone who wasn’t playing Nintendo in those days, the film is pointless. To someone who remembers Nintendo in those days, that film is pure gold in terms of nostalgia, the games, the accessories, the fact that the game to play was Super Mario Brothers 3.

  4. It should also be noted that the whole “Mario is also their last name” thing was used in the live action Lou Albano scenes for the first cartoon series.

    (Ahhh! My brain is full of this crap!)

    1. yeah really, you just pointed out Paul from the Wonder years (are they twins, wtf, why are there two of him?) and an obscure mario fact in the same post. You’re on a fucking roll today.

  5. This article was completely awesome, but the comments section just blew me away. After 12 years on the Internet I’ve created quite a hard shell, but Steven Applebaum found a soft spot. Congratulations, Steven, you’ve managed to make me feel like an Internet virgin all over again. I think the last time that happened was when I found a drawing of Henry Winkler’s face being stung by a hive of bees.

  6. If you like The Wizard, you’ll find the “goofs” section on IMDB a laugh riot. My favorite one: “When Spanky is driving the truck he is turning the wheel left and right. If he was doing that on the road the 18 wheeler would have flipped killing everyone inside.”

    It’s become somewhat of a meme between my husband and I.

  7. I was 30 years old — ancient like a dinosaur — and I guarded this movie set at my part-time job in Wilmington, North Carolina. This may or may not have been filmed at the cement factory where they filmed Steven King’s The Golden Years – my dinosaur-old memory fades. The set was kinda cool, kinda, but I got a strong premonition that the movie would really really suck. Thanks for the confirmation, and may Dinogod have mercy on your soul.

    1. Hey MichaelEdits. As I’ve previously said on this blog, I actually help run a website for the movie. It’s really cool that you were present for the film’s shoot, but it in no way sucked. It’s actually very popular, regularly outselling other films such as Ghostbusters.

      If you’re interested we’d love to interview you on your experiences. If you don’t have much to say any photos or production materials would be cool to have.

  8. Interesting write up on this bizarre film. I admit it’s a bad film, but I’ve always had a little bit of a soft spot for it. Enjoying looking around your site!

  9. Man. We had this on VHS and watched it…not constantly, but regularly. And even at the time, we knew it was ‘off’, but we were so committed to the Nintendo teat that we just told ourselves it was avant garde…the adult’s artiste vision of the Mushroom Kingdom…after all, such a colorful pixelated world,populated with bipedal funguses and bullets with arms, does not exist and would be silly on film, whereas a grungy dystopian vision of a reptilian alternate Earth? Totally could happen.

    Maybe I should lay out five bucks and see it again.

    (Have not been reading since Halloween 2010, Pizza, so I know this was posted 417 years ago in Blog Time, but it’s nice to catch up with you!)

Leave a Reply to Steven Applebaum Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s