In case you’ve been living under a rock or aren’t a complete nerd like me, I’ll let you know the casting of Chris Pratt as Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Movie is causing quite a controversy. Casting in movies creating drama is something I’ve spoken about in the past.
Daniel Craig as James Bond, Tom Cruise as Lestat, a plethora of culturally inappropriate casting decisions over the years, and now Chris Pratt as Mario. In this case the drama is more akin to the Cruise/Lestat controversy in that Pratt as Mario doesn’t seem to be a good fit. Let’s talk about it.
When we discuss whether a role is cast properly it’s often important to take into account how beloved is the character in question. When it comes to nerd love, Mario is near the top of the list. Many people, including myself, have fond memories of playing various Mario games over the years and the iconic voice actor Charles Martinet.
Martinet voiced Mario in the debut of the series way back in 1992 and his portrayal is, I say this not lightly, beloved. Martinet chose a light-hearted, fun-loving, and friendly interpretation for Mario. He deliberately didn’t take on a heavy Italian accent for the part. It wasn’t until the hugely successful 1996 Super Mario 64 hit the stores that he became famed for the role but he remained so for the rest of his life.
Pratt as Mario
I think it’s safe to say people were skeptical of Pratt’s ability to perform as Mario from the beginning; but it was the first trailer for the movie that really set people off. Pratt chose a more stereo-typical Italian accent and inflection and people were not happy.
It’s not only that Pratt went a different direction than Martinet but also he still largely sounds like Chris Pratt as Mario, not Mario. That’s not to say there’s anything inherently wrong with taking a character in a new direction, just that it’s clear Pratt does not sound like the Mario people are used to hearing.
There are also some dubs of the trailer in other languages where the voice actors sound not only more like the original portrayed by Martinet but also just a bit more natural and fun-loving. Pratt seems a little stilted compared to the other characters.
Video Game Fanatics
People love Mario. They love the voice of Mario. We are talking about people’s beloved childhood memories. Pratt as Mario finds himself in a difficult to succeed position. I don’t envy him and it took some courage to take the job.
That being said, video game fanatics are not going to lean back and pretend indifference here. For all the criticism on the two trailers, there are many who are willing to give Pratt a chance and wait for the release.
Is Pratt as Mario simply bad casting? That’s a question not so easily answered. I do think Pratt is a stretch in the role but he is an A-list Hollywood actor and that brings in ticket sales. Was Tom Cruise a bad choice for Lestat? Many fans of the books will rail against him to their dying day but he brought in ticket sales and that’s an important consideration in casting. Will people who have no interest in Mario and the games come to the movie simply because Pratt is one of the voice actors? I think the answer to that is clearly yes.
Is Pratt as Mario a terrible decision? It kind of depends on the movie. If the movie is good, and the trailers do look deliciously fun and in the spirit of the games, then all will be well. If the movie is terrible, Pratt will not unreasonably be offered up as the scapegoat.
I think the criticisms are reasonable although perhaps overly impassioned. I will say this, I hope Pratt is great in the role. I hope he proves the doubters wrong. Not because I particularly like Pratt but because I like good entertainment. If Pratt is good, if the movie is good, then I get great entertainment.
Where do you stand?