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Why Chris Pratt's Super Mario Bros. Casting Could Be An Inspired Choice

Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

Last week the internet went slightly bananas when the voice cast for the previously revealed animated Super Mario Bros. movie, was officially announced. A couple of the casting decisions were met with some degree of positive response. Jack Black as Bowser and Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong certainly have potential. Other names, like Anya-Taylor Joy as Peach and Charlie Day as Luigi, were, at the very worst, met with indifference. People had opinions, but none of them were that strong. However, in the case of the lead character, Mario himself, his voice casting was met with, at best, confusion, because the Italian plumber from Brooklyn is being voiced by Chris Pratt.

Seeing Chris Pratt's name in the cast is both shocking and not. He is one of the go-to actors who is seemingly automatically considered when it comes time to launch your popular franchise. From Guardians of the Galaxy to Jurassic World, Chris Pratt is there. He's also done voice work in a pair of surprisingly good LEGO movies. To many, he seems like absolutely the wrong choice to voice Mario, but is he really? There are at least a few reasons I'm willing to suspend judgement and wait and see how this turns out, because maybe Chris Pratt is actually a brilliant choice.

Chris Pratt in Jurassic World

Chris Pratt Won't Be Faking An Italian Accent, Probably

In video games, Mario is one of those characters who is largely a "silent protagonist." He's not usually given full dialogue to speak that is handled by a voice actor. Mario is either given simple noises that he makes, or when more is required, it's handled in simple text. When we do hear Mario speak in video games, he tends to have a comically silly Italian accent, and so for some, that is how Mario should sound. Part of the problem with Chris Pratt is that the mere idea of heading him try such an accent seems way wrong.

But that's probably not what's actually going to happen here. When Mario has been given life previously, in the Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993, or in the live-action/animated television show from slightly earlier, Mario wasn't strictly Italian. Rather, he was a New Yorker. Mario is traditionally a plumber from Brooklyn, and so whether he was played by Bob Hoskins or Captain Lou Albano, Mario just had a heavy New York accent, not an Italian one. I'm not saying Chris Pratt can do that accent justice, but it seems like it will be easier, and a lot less inherently silly, if that's the goal. This is, of course, assuming that the goal isn't to make the movie ridiculous.

Donkey Kong screen shot

Donkey Kong's Inclusion May Be Telling

At the end of the day, we have very little detail about what this movie will actually be. It includes all the core characters from the Super Mario Bros. games, but it also includes Donkey Kong, a character who hasn't shared the stage with Mario in those core games. Back in the original Donkey Kong, the player character was called Jumpman, and Jumpman did eventually evolve into the Mario we know. But for the most part, these days the few times that Donkey Kong and Mario cross paths are in spinoff games, where they're playing golf or racing go karts.

While Mario has been in all sorts of games beyond the ones with his name in the title, the story of Mario, the character in the Super Mario Bros. games, doesn't usually include the events of Donkey Kong. There's not usually an attempt to explain Mario's time rescuing a different girl from a crazed ape, and then imprisoning said ape, in his history exploring the Mushroom Kingdom.

The fact that Donkey Kong is in this movie would seem to indicate that while all the characters are here, the movie we're going to get isn't going to be a straightforward Mario Bros "saving the princess" sort of thing. As such, we could end up with the story going in lots of different directions. We might be getting a very different origin story for Mario that explains, in part, why he sounds like Star-Lord.

The LEGO movie poster

Are We Getting Another LEGO Movie Situation?

In the end, other than the fact that this movie will include the announced list of characters, we know nothing about what the actual plot will be. There have been no trailers or images to give us a hint. At the very least, we should try to withhold judgement because we just don't know what sort of movie is being attempted here. Chris Pratt was once in a licensed animated movie that ended up being a lot more than it appeared to be on the surface.

With The LEGO Movie, we had a situation where, rather than the film just bringing the popular toy to life, we got a movie where the toys were just that. The characters in the film were creations of a boy who was playing with the popular interlocking bricks, and that ended up being a big part of the story being told. The toy was always a toy, the story being told with them was just as "fictional" to the human characters in the movie as the human characters were to those of us watching the film.

I'm not saying we'll be getting an identical situation here. Hiring Chris Pratt to do the same thing twice would seem to be a little too on the nose, and having seen The LEGO Movie, any attempt by Illumination and Nintendo to do the same thing would simply not work as well a second time. Just ask the LEGO Movie sequel, which was still good, but lost a lot of the magic of the original simply because we knew how it worked.

But it is possible that there is some sort of "twist" in this upcoming film; some element that isn't obvious from the outside that will explain the casting decisions that were made? Even if there is one, that doesn't mean it will work, of course, but there still could be a method to this madness.

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.