Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
Super Mario Bros. is a superhero fantasy film released during that golden era known as the 90s. Music didn't yet suck, Google hadn't yet enslaved us, and movies weren't as sexist for about ten years approximately.
As the title would suggest, the film is based on the video game franchise of the same name, and it has a pretty bad reputation. Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a sad 21%, and one Google search will alert you to the fact that this film is generally hated.
I actually loved this movie when I was a kid and I still love it now. I don't get why people hate this film. I mean, I know the plot is a bit ridiculous—a meteorite causing an alternate dimension???—but I still consider the movie to be really fun.
Maybe I just have bad taste. I dunno. Look at my other articles here and you decide.
For those who are sticking around, here is why I actually like this film!
The Mario Brothers Themselves
Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo are both great actors, so it was no surprise that they managed to make Mario and Luigi's brotherly love touching and amusing. They were a "bromance" before that obnoxious term came to be.
(It's obnoxious because it shows how men are so damaged by the patriarchy, they're afraid to show affection to each other without putting a dumb label on it that makes it clear they're straight and masculine. Bromance? It's called friendship!!! Same goes for phrases like "man tears." They're just ****ing tears.)
I especially found the film's portrayal of Luigi interesting.
Luigi is basically a screw up. He has tons of potential. If you actually listen to him talk, he's interested in science and paleontology and anthropology, and yet, he doesn't get off his ass and pursue any of his interests, instead eating snacks, watching tv, and playing video games all day.
It's like he doesn't even try.
It's amazing that Daisy, his love interest, even liked him. In reality, a guy like him would never get a girl—and I say that as a woman who's been in his exact same shoes (sat on my ass, played video games, wasted my life, women ignored me).
There's a cautionary tale in here somewhere, but the writing was (admittedly) such crap that it never really acknowledged it.
Awesome Female Characters
It probably has something to do with the fact that one of the directors for the film was a woman, but there were so many hilarious and awesome female characters in this!!!
And what's more, they were allowed to be flawed human beings, rather than sexed up and objectified fantasies. None of them existed solely to titillate the male audience and/or to further the story line of the male characters.
All the female characters were treated like people. They had their own goals and desires. Even the side characters!
When Mario and Luigi first arrive in Koopa's dimension, they are robbed by a seemingly sweet old woman in a hilarious scene.
Immediately after that, a woman with awesome jet boots steals the meteorite piece from them and escapes (Big Bertha, played by Francesca Roberts).
Big Bertha was a BAMF.
She was so unapologetically mean, cackling after she punched Mario in the face.
I'm not saying that makes her a good person. Actually, she's terrible for punching him!
I'm saying it makes her an interesting character, one that isn't defined by sexist stereotypes. Instead, she's just a flawed person who occasionally does bad things.
The scene where Mario dances with her is strangely adorable, hilarious, and erotic all at once. It's also a little sad how disappointed Big Bertha is when it turns out Mario just wanted to steal the meteorite back.
She really thought he liked her. . . . She was lonely. Hurting people hurt others, as they say.
When Lena and the Goombas arrive, Bertha winds up helping the brothers escape after sweetly giving Mario a kiss.
There was also Lena (Fiona Shaw), a villain whose jealousy of the female lead winds up being the death of her. It almost sounds like the film is depicting sexist stereotypes (insecure women pulling each other's hair), but I liked Lena as a character (not a person).
It's pretty amusing when Mario's girlfriend, Daniella (Dana Kaminiski), assumes that Lena is there to help her and the other kidnapped women. As if, just because Lena is a woman, she must be their ally and/or good.
Instead, Lena makes it clear that she's a badass villain and is not their friend.
I realize it sounds like I'm advocating cat fighting or something, but I'm not. I'm advocating the humanity of women -- which means that we can be depicted as good, evil, or ****ing neutral in a film without our biological sex coming into play as the reason.
Lena wasn't depicted as evil because she was a woman. She was depicted as evil because she made the choice, as an autonomous person, to be evil.
And of course there was Daisy (Samantha Mathis), who has a very cute and surprisingly not-sexist romance with Luigi.
I'm confused as to why they didn't just have her be Princess Peach. Instead of putting her in a pink dress, they put her in a purple one and called her Daisy . . .?
Kay . . .
Dennis Hopper played the villain, King Koopa, and I thought he was good. Though I might just be biased because of his role in Speed ("Eccentric. Rich people are eccentric, not crazy!").
In fact, he was a little too good at being a villain. The infamous part where he flashes his long lizard tongue at Daisy and tries to seduce her on the couch made me so uncomfortable, thinking of all the predatory men I've known.
Also, when he kicked Yoshi!!! Seeing that part will make you see red.
I actually thought the de-evolution stuff was pretty cool.
People being reversed into slime and dumb dinosaurs made the movie pretty entertaining.
The Goombas were especially amusing with their tiny heads and tiny brains. They are revealed in the film to be de-evolved humans who rebelled and were, as a consequence, turned into mindless lizard-headed minions by Koopa.
Meanwhile, Koopa himself claims to have evolved from a T-Rex.
When Mario and Luigi de-evolve Koopa at the end, it's just so neat watching his face turn into this grotesque, clay dinosaur mask.
The Ending Was Perfect
I liked the ending, too.
I love that Daisy chose to stay in her own world, get to know her father, run her kingdom, and prioritize her own needs and her own life, rather than make sacrifices for a guy she barely knew one day.
And instead of throwing a tantrum and calling Daisy a number of slurs, Luigi behaves like a normal human being by respecting Daisy's autonomy and kissing her goodbye.
It's remarkable that Daisy was written so strong when women in our society are programmed to sacrifice everything and prioritize the wants and needs of a man over our own.
It was very well done.
Say what you want about the writing, but I don't think this film was ever meant to be deep on some level of Shakespeare. Look at the other films from its era: Ghostbusters, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Super Mario Bros. was written in an era where filmmakers were trying to be silly, cartoony, and yet dark and dramatic at the same time. A lot of these movies had slime and animatronic monsters, they were based on comics and cartoons and were targeted at children.
All-in-all, it was a good time to be a kid.
© 2019 Lee