I grew up loving the first Super Mario Bros game on Nintendo (OK, I also loved the much-maligned sequel, but that’s a different story altogether), but this movie was a stretch even for me back then. I mean, there was so little here that seemed to have to anything to do with the game that I couldn’t understand why anyone even bothered making it, especially since the game was so important to me. I fdecided to give it another shot after reading an old AV Club article about the movie’s backstory (seriously you should read it, it’s really interesting), and I have to admit: It’s a lot of fun! I mean, it’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s fairly obvious that the Super Mario Bros thing seems to have been imposed on an already-finished screenplay, but there’s a lot more to enjoy than I remembered. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo share a lot of chemistry which goes a long way towards selling the rather needlessly complicated storyline, and there aren’t enough words to describe how much fun Dennis Hopper seems to be having as King Koopa: His maniac-on-the-brink energy has been harnessed to great effect many times over the decades in serious movies like “Blue Velvet” and “Apocalypse Now” but this is the first time I’ve seen him in a family-friendly movie, and it’s hard to imagine “Super Mario Bros.” being as much fun as it is without him. The sets are creative and inventive in a ’90s studio movie way (not unlike “Demolition Man” and “Total Recall”), while co-directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton keep their camera moving fairly consistently, which gives the whole thing a crisp, zippy pace that gets to business pretty quickly. So in the end, this was a pleasant surprise to revisit: It’s not nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, it’s a pretty good family-friendly adventure flick that goes down easy, and you could do a lot worse.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)