Let’s get one thing straight: You can say whatever you want about Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel’s Super Mario Bros. (1993), but you need to remember that it wasn’t cheap—in fact, a more brazenly commercial product of this size and sweep may never have crawled out of studio hell in the 1990s. Furthermore, the conditions that leavened it—a hotshot husband-and-wife directing team propelled into the eye of a sprawling, committee-bred, synergetic summer-blockbuster hurricane, well after shooting began—would probably never be repeated again. The result is a queasy jumble of genre tropes (re-appropriated to hit kids’ sweet spots), and remarkable modernist visual gags, packed with political subtext, yet tossed off like so many cheap pizza napkins.
John Leguizamo (#1–10 of 3)
[This is a submission to the White Elephant Blogathon called by Silly Hats Only.]
On the stage, John Leguizamo was something of a dynamo caricaturist. His one-man plays, like Freak and Sexaholix, were an explosive series of tirades centered around Leguizamo’s mixed ethnicity, effectively turning his insecurity into schtick by sheer force of will alone. On stage, Leguizamo looked like a caged cartoon animal pacing back and forth while tirelessly spitting over-caffeinated rants at his audience. No target was spared, especially not when it came to his parents. He was not Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy, but he was loud and vigorous in his lampooning and the audiences and critics ate it up.
The producers of Paul Miller’s 1997 clunker, The Pest, and perhaps Miller himself, who had previously directed 15 episodes of In Living Color and 10 episodes of something called House of Buggin’, no doubt saw this angry young man and thought that all they needed to do was put a camera in front of him, wind him up and set him loose to get fans of “ethnic humor” to roll up. He acted like a living looney tune on film so why not on try doing the same thing for film?
There’s a moment in Where God Left His Shoes, directed by Salvatore Stabile and starring John Leguizamo, which encapsulates its missteps as a film. It’s Christmas Eve in New York City and there’s a shot of a homeless shelter with a long line waiting to get in, accompanied on the soundtrack by “Christmas Time is Here”, the song from A Charlie Brown Christmas. What could have been a quietly effective scene, full of the tragic dichotomies of the situation (“Man, how bleak it must be to be in a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve?”) is ruined by the overly-obvious music choice. So instead of being moved, I felt tired and cranky, the way I always do when someone treats me like I’m not all that intelligent. Like: “Yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it. Whatever.”