The world continues to be baffled at the casting of Chris Pratt as Mario in Illumination’s animated movie adaptation of the classic Nintendo games. Now Pratt has said his voice performance will be “updated and unlike anything you’ve heard in the Mario world before,” which is unlikely to set many minds at rest.
Speaking to Variety, Pratt revealed he’d had to experiment to find the right approach to playing the iconic plumber. “I worked really closely with the directors and trying out a few things and landed on something that I’m really proud of and can’t wait for people to see and hear,” he said.
Pratt’s comments come just a few days after Chris Meledandri — the film’s co-producer, with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and the founder of Illumination, the Minions animation studio — defended Pratt’s performance to Deadline. “When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should,” Meledandri said.
He also referred to some critics’ worry that Pratt putting on an Italian accent in the role might be offensive to people of Italian descent. “I’m not sure this is the smartest defense, but as a person who has Italian-American heritage, I feel I can make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian-Americans. … I think we’re going to be just fine,” Meledandri said.
Fan reaction to Pratt’s casting has been pretty negative, whether due to his personal politics, his replacement of Mario’s longstanding video game voice actor Charles Martinet, his status as the internet’s “worst Chris,” or the gulf between his recent image as the stoic, hunky action star of the Jurassic World films and that of the portly, diminutive plumber Mario.
Pratt — who, no less bizarrely, is also slated to play Garfield — certainly is a curious choice for the role. It’s worth remembering, however, that he has form in animation, having successfully anchored two Lego movies as the irrepressible Emmet, and that he showed a great gift for comic timing in the adored sitcom Parks and Recreation before his unlikely transformation into Hollywood beefcake.
More to the point, faithfulness to the Mario character as-is is not really an option for Pratt, or for Illumination. The kind of radical transformation of the Mario voice Pratt is talking about is absolutely necessary if a Mario movie is to work at all. Nintendo’s Mario games feature very little spoken dialogue, and the Mario voice created by the eccentric Martinet — a staccato, falsetto delivery of whoops and heavily exaggerated Italianisms — would surely grate over the course of a 90-minute movie.
The Super Mario Bros. movie was recently delayed from December 2022 to April 7, 2023. It also stars, incredibly, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Charlie Day as Luigi, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, and Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong.