Eagle-Eyed Super Mario Bros. Fans Spot A Possible Last-Minute Soundtrack Swap

This article contains mild spoilers for "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."

Aaron Horvath's and Michael Jelenic's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" contains multiple, perhaps-obvious, pop music cues that accent the film's many action sequences. Early in the film, when Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) have to traverse a dangerous Brooklyn street on the way to a much-needed plumbing job, The Beastie Boys' 1987 hit "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," from their album "Licensed to Ill" plays on the soundtrack. The line "Our manager's crazy, he always smokes dust" is tactfully omitted. Later in the film, when Mario, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) have to build and drive their own high-octane go-karts, the opening rock strains of AC/DC's 1990 song "Thunderstruck," punctuates the construction.

Both of these music cues have some thematic logic. The more baffling needle drop is the placement of A-ha's 1985 chart-topper "Take on Me," from "Hunting High and Low." When Mario, Peach, and Toad arrive in the Kingdom of Kongs, they are thrown into the back of a go-kart by a sentient gorilla who drives them over a complicated and precarious wooden track, his means of taking them to see the King Kong (Fred Armisen). The drive is accompanied by "Take on Me," selected, presumably, because it's a familiar old hit that anyone can groove to. It might sound a little out-of-place, but the world's many A-ha fans will likely be forgiving.

It turns out, however, that it sounded out of place for a reason. Some resourceful, Twitter-using fans of "Donkey Kong Country" found a particular video game theme on the "Super Mario Bros. Movie" soundtrack that was weirdly absent from the film. The track, "Driving Me Bananas" was likely the original music cue in the go-karting scene before "Take on Me" took its place.

Drivin' Me Bananas

The Super Nintendo game "Donkey Kong Country" was released in 1994, and might be one of the more challenging games made for the console. Rendered using then-state-of-the-art CGI, "Donkey Kong Country" was a side-scrolling adventure about the titular ape retrieving a store of bananas from an infiltrating force of lizard people. The music for the game was composed by David Wise, Eveline Novakovic, and Robin Beanland, and included a lot of hummable themes and light, music-box-like "jungle" tunes. 

A Twitter user named @KRoolKountry spotted that one of the tracks on "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" soundtrack contained a notable theme from "Donkey Kong Country," but was just as quick to notice that it did not appear in the film. The score for "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" was composed by Brian Tyler, and incorporated a lot of familiar themes from various "Mario Bros." games, all of them composed by Koji Kondo. Tracks from the soundtrack, as seen above, have been released on YouTube. A second Twitter user named @_Slunky noted that the go-karting scene was about, well, driving, and the track called "Driving Me Bananas" was just the right length for that sequence. 

It seems that, likely at the last minute, the filmmakers decided to swap out Tyler's score, featuring the Wise/Novakovic/Beanland themes, with "Take on Me." 

Personally, this author prefers Tyler's score to a lazy needle drop. If one is going to drop in a driving, propulsive pop song to underscore a scene where an ape drives a go-kart, at least make it fun. How about a mellower drive underscored by Radiohead's "Banana Co.?" Or, if you want more energy, how about Blink-182's "Toast and Bananas?" And those are easily enough discovered.

The DK Rap

This was not the only scandal surrounding the music in "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." Fans of the 1999 game "Donkey Kong 64" for the Nintendo 64 will likely recognize another notable song cue in the Donkey Kong country sequences. When Mario enters a battle arena to engage in hand-to-hand combat with Donkey Kong himself (voiced by Seth Rogen), the ape strides into his own theme song, "DK Rap." 

"DK Rap" was composed by Scottish composer Grant Kirkhope who composed music for such games as "Killer Instinct 2," "GoldenEye," "Banjo-Kazooie," and many others. Kirkhope also provided the vocals for Donkey Kong in multiple games in the character's franchise. On Twitter, Kirkhope pointed out that, while "DK Rap" was played in "The Super Mario Bros." movie, he did not receive any credit, expressing his dismay with a head-shaking "fml." 

Kirkhope has acknowledged that "DK Rap" is a largely horrendous song, but in the way a catchy pop tune needs to be. He even once joked that the song's notoriety will leave him damned, saying that his tombstone ought to read "Here lies the body of Grant Kirkhope, he wrote the 'DK Rap,' may God have mercy on his soul."

Regardless of its quality or legacy, Kirkhope was the composer, and, it seems, he was not given any kind of credit or pay for his contribution to "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." One can hope that Universal will edit the credits to eventually include him.