The best and worst thing about 'The Four Players' is that it feels like the kind of thing Hollywood would actually do. You see, filmmaker Evan Daugherty has taken the bright, cheerful and nonsensical world of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. video game franchise and given it the Christopher Nolan treatment. In a series of four short films, Daugherty and his team transform these playful gaming mascots into gritty "real" characters, an exercise that is simultaneously depressing and hilarious.
In the first film, "The Fixer" (shown above), Mario himself is re-imagined as a tough brute who lives in squalor but cleans himself up and gets to work whenever his particular set of skills are needed. In the second, "The Addict" (shown below), Mario's brother Luigi is transformed into a drug addict and small-time crook, a loser who can't escape his brother's shadow and is often useless when the people who love him need him the most. Both shorts take the game's familiar imagery (color-coded uniforms, mushrooms, blocks that shatter into gold coins) and cover them with a thick coat of grime. There are no jokes, per se, but the overwrought manner in which these two icons go grim 'n gritty is inherently funny.
Daugherty has had his fair share of Hollywood experience as a screenwriter on projects like 'Snow White and the Huntsman' and the upcoming 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,' so it's not too surprising that his work here is slick and professional. Unfortunately, it's well-directed and presented enough that we worry someone will get the wrong idea and try to take this concept to the feature-length arena without getting the joke. But to be fair, that still wouldn't be as bad as the original 'Super Mario Bros.' movie.
UPDATE: Watch all four short films above and below, including "The Star" for Princess Peach and "The Warrior" Toad.