HBO’s “The Last Of Us” is off to a roaring start, sitting at 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with only four episodes released. It’s an unprecedented success for a live-action adaptation of a video game, and it’s given Saturday Night Live a comedic idea: What if HBO picked completely the wrong game franchise and decided to ruin Mario Kart? It’s a joke but, also, it’s probably crossed the minds of network executives.
After opening on a Bullet Bill shell, the skit cuts to a wider scene that looks like an alternate-universe version of the Great Depression, in which Mario’s called upon to smuggle Princess Peach to Rainbow Road. Hey, most Need For Speed games operate on flimsier plots, so it looks like SNL’s just rolling with it. Mario doesn’t act alone, so let’s pull out the Fast & Furious family trope and go find Luigi.
Oh of course Luigi’s living in some facsimile of his haunted mansion. There’s no sign of Professor E. Gadd, but Luigi has a shotgun like he’s living in the Florida swamp or something. There’s a nice joke about resolution-limited character design when the Goomba walks in and a little dig at HBO’s idea of complex characters when Yoshi and Toad are introduced, then we’re promptly launched into quoting mock reviews.
The skit eventually evolves into what can only be described as a gritty re-skin of the Wachowskis’ Speed Racer, with Mario and the gang dodging obstacles and Toad eventually being taken out by a red shell from Bowser. Rest in peace, bisexual Toad. We hardly knew ye.
Add in jokes like the oddness of Lakitu and the no-karting sign in the opening scene, along with a smattering of darkness like Mario’s addiction to mushrooms, and you get a sketch that leans into the absurd. And you know what? It still looks better than the real-live series they tried to do and way better than the OG movie. Just watch this:
The state of live-action video game adaptations is pretty abysmal, so it’s not terribly surprising that an SNL sketch seems as plausible entertainment as the Need For Speed movie, but still. It’s amazing what high production value can pull out of a premise as thin as single-ply toilet paper.
While SNL’s Mario Kart bit is obviously for laughs, there’s a kernel of promise in the idea of a gritty TV show centered around a driving game. While something as frenetic and carnage-bearing as Burnout 3: Takedown could be entertaining, the real money could be in something like a TV adaptation of Grand Theft Auto. For now, though, the SNL Mario Kart sketch is a solid laugh that’s worth checking out.
(Photo credits: SNL)
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