It’s hard to imagine how big a failure Super Marion Bros: The Motion Picture was on its release in 1993. Directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, the film was supposed to be the film that brought video games and movies together, a lucrative union that was to last for decades to come. Sadly, it wasn’t and the film essentially became the byword for why these two art forms should never converge. Made for $48 million (a huge sum in 1993), the film failed to find an audience grossing just $20.9 million at the US box office.
Looking back on it now – almost 30 years later – and it’s hard to see what’s wrong with it. We live in a time when nearly all summer blockbusters are terrible and we know that going in. However, think back in a rose tinted way to 1993 when dinosaurs ruled the world with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and something like Super Mario Bros was never going to cut the mustard. The film follows Mario and Luigi Mario (Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo) as they delve deep into the bowls of Brooklyn to rescue Princess Daisy (Samantha Mathis) from the clutches of the evil lizard King Koopa (Dennis Hooper). The plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, but at least the film’s practical effects still impress in the 21st Century.
Behind the scenes shenanigans meant that nobody ever had a handle on the tone for Super Mario Bros and it shows. The game is light and breezy, while the film’s dark visuals are betrayed by a script that never seems to know if it wants to be a hard edged science fiction drama or a children’s film. As it turns out, the film is both, meaning that nobody was ever going to be satisfied by what’s on the screen (unless you’ve always wanted to see Lance Henriksen emerge from a giant fungus).
Super Mario Bros: The Motion Picture isn’t a very good film, but it’s much better than history would lead you to believe. However, you could argue that this, along with The Last Action Hero, was when the rot first set-in on the summer blockbuster.