While the film draws inspiration from the series, it spins elements from the games into a more realistic and darker fashion. The movie was originally envisioned and written as a fantasy-style film, but gradually evolved to the point where it became a sci-fi/action film.
It was written by Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, and Ed Solomon, and directed by Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton, and Dean Semler. The score was provided by celebrated Hollywood composer Alan Silvestri. Super Mario Bros. holds the distinction of being the first feature-length live-action motion picture to be adapted from a video game.
The film was listed in a February 1992 issue of TV Guide listing of upcoming animated films (suggesting it was originally meant to be animated) and was to be released in December 1992.
The movie begins by saying that the K-T asteroid, which supposedly resulted in extinction of dinosaurs, was not so. While many dinosaurs were indeed killed, some were sent to a parallel universe created by the asteroid and evolved into humanlike creatures. In the present day, the movie centers on Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Legizamo) who are struggling to get by due to their lack of money, the cause of which being their competition, Anthony Scapelli (Gianni Russo), a gangster who runs a rival plumbing service. They meet a kind, young girl, Daisy (Samantha Mathis), who is working on an excavation site while also trying to stop Scapelli from taking over the site for construction purposes.
During this time, Luigi falls in love with Daisy, though she is soon after kidnapped by two men, Iggy (Fisher Stevens) and Spike (Richard Edson) who take her to a parallel dimension created by the meteorite impact 65 million years ago, where the dinosaurs were teleported to as soon as it struck. Here, they, like the other mammals in our dimension, evolved into vicious humans, led by President Koopa (Dennis Hopper). The brothers now have to go to the other dimension to save Daisy and stop Koopa from uniting the two dimensions once more and ruling both.
The film was a massive critical and commercial flop. The film cost $42 million to create due to its cast and visual effects, yet it was a box office bust only grossed $21,300,885 losing $22 million dollars. The film was widely panned for it's nonsensical storyline, weak script and having to do very little with it's source material. It currently holds a 16% on Rotten Tomatoes.
There were very few actual Mario elements, which contributed to its failure. One criticism was that they chose Daisy, rather than Peach, to be the damsel in distress. Daisy had only previously been seen in the Super Mario Land series. King Koopa was depicted as a tyrannosaurus instead of a Koopa. Many fans were extremely upset with the film, and it is now recognized as a joke throughout the Nintendo community.
The late Bob Hoskins had said in multiple interviews that working on this film was by far the worst experience of his career and that he had regretted working on it. Fellow actors John Leguizamo and the late Dennis Hopper had also expressed dissatisfaction with their respective roles of Luigi and Koopa and the film's overall lack of direction.
Despite the film's immense failure, it was nominated for two Saturn Awards for Best Makeup and Best Costume. It also remains as a cult film and actually has a considerable following.
- Bob Hoskins as Mario Mario
- John Leguizamo as Luigi Mario
- Samantha Mathis as Princess Daisy
- Dennis Hopper as President Koopa
- Fisher Stevens as Iggy Koopa
- Richard Edson as Spike Koopa
- Fiona Shaw as Lena
- Dana Kaminkski as Daniella
- Francesca Roberts as Big Bertha
- Mojo Nixon as Toad
- Gianni Russo as Anthony Scapelli
- Lance Henriksen as Mushroom King
- Frank Welker provides vocals for Yoshi and the Goombas along with various other creatures
- Danny DeVito, Dustin Hoffman, and John Goodman were considered for the role of Mario before Hoskins was cast.
- Tom Hanks, Steve Buscemi, Keanu Reeves and Matthew Broderick were considered for the role of Luigi before Leguizamo was cast.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Walken, and Tim Curry were considered for the role of President Koopa before Hopper was cast.
- President Koopa's appearance is based on Donald Trump, the real-life 45th and current President of the United States.