A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Super Mario Bros. is a live-action 1993 film very loosely based on the popular 1980s Nintendo video game. Those expecting a more direct link to what happens in the video game are bound to be disappointed. There is frequent cartoonish violence -- pratfalls and slapstick -- but some of it is more than that, such as when two men attack a woman by grabbing her in a doorway as she screams. Characters are hit in the head with flashlights. There is some puerile name-calling on the order of "butt breath." There's occasional monster imagery that might be disturbing to younger viewers or those prone to having nightmares. During a slow dance, Mario reclaims a stolen necklace by burying his face in a woman's cleavage.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) are a pair of plumber brothers struggling to make ends meet in Brooklyn. Their lives take a surreal turn when Luigi falls for an archeology student named Daisy, who is trying to excavate a site filled with dinosaur fossils despite being threatened by a greedy, seemingly mob-affiliated construction company. Two of the construction company's stooges kidnap Daisy and transport her to a surreal alternate reality ruled by the evil King Koopa (Dennis Hopper), who has transformed the actual King, Daisy's father, into a ball of mucus, wants to rule both worlds, and has a Devo (De-evolution) Machine to help make that happen. It's up to Mario and Luigi to find a way to rescue Daisy, stop King Koopa, and rescue both worlds.
Is it any good?
Falling short of expectations that it would be more like the video game when first released, this movie now looks like a dated '90s attempt at quirkiness. This quirkiness and the confusing story line make it hard to recommend. The movie does have some period charm, and the lead actors certainly do their best with what they have (Dennis Hopper especially seems to have fun as the wicked King Koopa), but ultimately the producers took one too many liberties with the actual video game and gave its fans a movie that fell far short of expectations.
In the years since this movie has come out, some have grown to appreciate the effort made by the filmmakers to try to do something different. Though those arguments are interesting and perhaps not without merit, it's difficult to imagine them carrying much weight for the average moviegoer with some passing familiarity with Nintendo, Super Mario Bros., and video game culture as a whole.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about adapting video games into movies. What would be the challenges of doing something like this? Can you think of examples of other movies turned into video games and vice versa?
Though widely disliked when first released, this movie has a small cult following; fans say it's "misunderstood" because it had so little to do with the actual video game. Can you think of other movies, TV shows, songs, and art pieces that have, for some, gotten better with age? What are some other examples of entertainment that have acquired a cult following?
Why do you think it would be disappointing for fans of a video game to see a movie version that doesn't bear enough similarities to the actual game?
- In theaters: May 28, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: June 3, 2003
- Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper
- Director: Annabel Jankel
- Studio: Hollywood Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Superheroes, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Sci-fi action, mild language, and sensuality.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.