Why Does Hollywood...?

I just saw the new Super Mario movie trailer. Why does Chris Pratt sound like... Chris Pratt? -Raleigh M.

Nintendo and Illumination Entertainment (Universal’s animation arm) have teamed up for multiple projects, even finishing up the design for Nintendo Land in Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. Super Mario is the first official film collaboration between the two, so both companies want a first-place finish. Nintendo’s been hurt before, so Illumination played with them on easy mode.



Back in the early 90’s, Nintendo was much more trusting with their intellectual property, freely letting Hollywood do what they wanted. The result was the Super Mario Bros. Movie, one of the most reviled, most infamous bombs in movie history. Also hurt, to a lesser degree, was The Legend of Zelda, whose TV show was saddled with a “sassy” version of Link who said things like, “Excuuuuuse me, Princess!”

Rightly horrified, Nintendo vowed to never loan out their characters again. Thankfully, movies like Wreck-it Ralph, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Detective Pikachu convinced the powers that be to try making Mario a franchise star once more. Illumination’s resulting thought process was likely the following: “We get one chance to make this right. We need star power (ha, Mario pun) to ensure a hit. Chris Pratt’s a big name; he did such a great job in The Lego Movie. Let’s cast him.”


Moving on to Player 2 of this situation, Pratt himself isn’t a terrible choice. He has likable energy and an admirable work ethic. He’s also currently overexposed, starring in six projects this year alone.

Simultaneously, he’s not the most careful on social media, releasing a “loving” post of his new wife and purportedly dissing his child from his first marriage. Pratt has vehemently denied this interpretation, and I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt here. I’ve seen interviews of him where he tells stories of his son, and he beams with a goofy dad energy.

A matter where Pratt was, at best, naive, was his stint with the scandalous Hillsong United Church. In Pratt’s favor, he was a member of an offshoot congregation and was going through a tumultuous time in his life. Upon learning of their policies and their likely intention to leverage his star power for cultural attention, he distanced himself. These personal issues in Pratt’s life have somewhat soured his cultural credit. Hence, many on social media have expressed displeasure at his casting.


But wait, isn’t this issue about hiring real voice actors? Perhaps partially, but voice acting IS acting. Where were these keyboard activists when Danny DeVito was cast as The Lorax? Did social media raise a stink when Idris Elba was cast as Knuckles? Warner Bros. got nothing but praise for stunt casting Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern respectively for Lego Batman. Yes, Charles Martinet has faithfully played Mario for decades, but video-game restrictions at the time required him to intensely emote into split-second soundbites. The result is charming in micro doses, but would become unbearable over a feature-length runtime.

Therefore, either Illumination or Nintendo probably asked Pratt to tone down any affectation, making his recognizable voice a key draw. What social media likely meant to criticize, then, before snowballing into a frenzy, was the unnecessary casting of ANY celebrity. Mario IS the celebrity. Disney wouldn’t cast Daniel Day-Lewis as Mickey Mouse or Meryl Streep as Minnie–regardless of the gravitas they’d bring to the roles. Mickey Mouse plays Mickey Mouse. Moviegoers may be distracted by Pratt’s voice because they’ll be expecting to hear Mario. Come April, we’ll know for sure if this movie jumps to the top of the box-office flagpole or circles the drain pipe.

If The Internet got huffy over Mario’s voice, though, imagine the scrutiny and fervor if they introduce Waluigi in the sequel!


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