Mario Movie Producer Says Chris Pratt Won’t Offend Italians, Completely Missing The Point

Mario Movie Producer Says Chris Pratt Won’t Offend Italians, Completely Missing The Point
Ask 100 random people who this man is and 99 will probably say Chris Evans. (Photo: Valerie Macon, Getty Images)

Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri is apparently under the assumption that his studio is being criticised for casting Chris Pratt as the eponymous plumber in its upcoming Mario movie due to concerns over Italian representation and not because, you know, Chris Pratt sucks.

“When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely,” Meledandri told Deadline. “People love to voice opinions, as they should. I’m not sure this is the smartest defence, 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, who is also a producer on the animated film alongside Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto, went on to say the project is “the fulfillment of a really important objective” and the relationship between Illumination and Nintendo is “unprecedented in its closeness.” These comments mean practically nothing, but it’s fun to pretend they’re insightful glimpses into the creative process.

The as-of-yet unnamed Mario movie garnered both bemusement and criticism when the voice talent was announced during a Nintendo Direct presentation last year. While, on some level, folks understood getting Jack Black to play Bowser and Seth Rogan for Donkey Kong, it was the film’s casting of Pratt as the titular hero specifically that turned heads. Some joked that having such a boring everyman in the role erased Mario’s Italian heritage. I guess Meledandri took that to heart.

It should be noted that Charles Martinet, the official voice of Mario since 1990, also isn’t Italian. In fact, Martinet’s oft-repeated origin story involves the actor riffing about “spaghetti and meatballs” in a stereotypical Italian voice during his audition for half an hour before landing the job.

“[Nintendo] told me I was an Italian plumber from Brooklyn, so my instinct was to try a gruff and coarse voice — ’hey you, get outta my face!’” Martinet told BBC in 2012. “What popped into my brain was a character I’d played in [Shakespeare’s] Taming of the Shrew. I was Petruchio going back to get his wife in Italy, and I was a sort of ‘Mamma mia, nice ol’ Italian guy.’ I thought I’d do something like that.”

With that in mind, it’s probably safe to say the pushback to Pratt’s casting largely isn’t about Italian or Italian-American representation, at least outside the irony-poisoned halls of Twitter. No, it’s more a matter of, as I said before, Pratt just plain sucking.

Even if you ignore Pratt attending a homophobic church, folks are sick of seeing his chiselled, shark-eyed face everywhere. He’s the latest in a long line of middling actors to secure blockbuster after blockbuster simply by virtue of being unassuming. In Pratt, Hollywood has found the perfect bland protagonist to plug into cookie cutter adventure flicks every summer, from hypnotising velociraptors in Jurassic World to whatever the hell The Tomorrow War is all about.

There’s also the fact that animated movies in recent years have become all about being able to list a star-studded cast during trailers rather than hiring actual, talented voice actors. Far be it from me to criticise Charlie Day for accepting a role as Luigi, but we distinguish between “actors” and “voice actors” for a reason. Both artforms require far different skills that don’t necessarily translate to the other. Martinet’s career as an accomplished voice actor should have made him a shoo-in for the Mario movie, not just as a winking, Stan Lee-style cameo but as the plumber himself.

It’s a nice thing that Meledandri took jokes about Italian representation at face value, but it’s obvious he’s sidestepping the crux of the issue. I’d much rather he just came out and told the truth: They hired Pratt because they wanted to attach a big-name actor to the role no matter how large the dissonance between Mario’s portrayal in the games and the movie. And while I’m probably asking too much from a guy who had a hand in unleashing the Minions on the world, that’s between Meledandri and his god at this point.



  • What the article says: Chris Pratt sucks
    What the article means: *I think* Chris Pratt sucks.

    This petty Pratt hate is tired and boring. Seethe harder, Ian.

    • If I could upvote this I would. There’s nothing wrong with Pratt’s acting skills, and he also has charisma and a likeable personality. It’s true that he seems to be in a lot of things right now and is the flavour of the month but that’s hardly his fault. I’ll be reserving my judgement on this casting until I’ve actually heard it. If it sucks, I’ll call it out, but saying it sucks before you’ve even heard it is nonsensical and incredibly immature.

      Also, on this bit: “but we distinguish between “actors” and “voice actors” for a reason. Both artforms require far different skills that don’t necessarily translate to the other. ”

      If you see interviews with any particular voice actor about how they got their start, they always say they went to drama school. Because, funnily enough, you need to be trained as an actor to also be a voice actor. Amazing how that works. Ian even contradicts this point in this very article, by earlier quoting Charles Martinet who revealed he was a stage actor (in Shakespeare plays) before he got his break as Mario’s voice actor. Many talented voice actors had their start as actors, even Martinet himself, as it turns out.

      So, uhh, yeah. I really wish these Kotaku US authors would stop basing these articles on their own personal opinions. Can we get the AU team to go over there and teach them how to write?

      • …and if I could upvote this, I would. I have online friends that joke about the poor journalistic standards of Kotaku, which always confused me. I tell them that the Australian Kotaku articles are normally well researched and written, and covered things like censorship/classification and consumer rights, e.g. ACCC vs Valve. This sort of drivel is what they told me that they know Kotaku for. There is not even a reason for saying “Pratt sucks”. He’s characterized as middle of the road, i.e. not sucking and not ruling, to use the primary school classification system the article adopts. It also complains of seeing his face too often, something unlikely to be of concern in an animated film. I suspect that he was chosen for the childlike enthusiastic optimism he conveyed with his acting, including his voice, in Parks and Recreation. He probably also will just say the lines and get the job done quickly, unlike a comedian that will improvise lines far better than those written. Robin Williams would have been excellent for the role. Having said that, it’s hard to understand not engaging Martinet to do reprise his iconic role, but I suppose I am looking at it from the perspective of creating art that will be well received, not simply profiting from the goodwill associated with established art. I have no doubt that the film will suck as much as this article, but it won’t be because of Pratt.
        Please spare us these ill conceived half baked American opinion pieces in future.

  • Mario is a household name and voice that sold more than 780 million games, no hollywood actor has a box office like Mario… and they replace him.

    His original voice is iconic, it’s a memory worm, replacing it gives people an immediate uncanny Valley… cause everyone knows what he sounds like, and he doesn’t sound like Starlord.

    I think having Bowser sound like the Kung Fu panda will be the most jarring. There wasn’t much dynamic range voice acting or impersonation talent in that roster.

    • I’ve been curious about that myself.
      Black can definitely get the growl on and you would assume some vocal effects would be in play too but you have to wonder when people often just get him to do him.
      “Ha HA, Mario, I’m taking the princess, CHIPOW!!”

    • i think where the problem might lay is that as far as im awhere (correct me if im wrong which i likely am) themario voice in the games is mostly just short 3 -5 world lines.
      Like marios VA isnt readying from a full on script like say the cast of the simpsons do and might not be capable of doing that

  • Kotaku’s cognitive dissonance is astounding, when it clearly worked for replacing videogame voice actors for the Sonic films, which have made quite a pretty penny at the box office. Even Kotaku staff were salivating over celebrity actors voicing main characters; they just really want to hate on Chris Pratt for being caucasian and Christian.

    Ian’s been noticeably silent on Israel’s Warsaw Ghetto-esque repression of Palestine this year, guessing his journoscum friend circle couldn’t be bothered to care about it this time around?

  • Besides Pratt being middling, this is ironic given the Mario character is a cultural appropriation in the first instance.

    • Not debunked but definitely defended.

      His church was (no longer I heard) part of Hillsong and they don’t have a great reputation for a lot of things.
      (The US offshoot are viewed even worse than here lol)

      It was stupid to link him directly and a number of celebrities got caught up in the promotion drive back then and most backed out when everything went to shit.
      They really need to let it go now.

      • His church was never a part of Hillsong. The Hillsong founder himself came out publicly and said Chris prats church was not a part of Hillsong.

        The entire discourse of “Chris pratts church is homophobic so therefore Chris is homophobic” was entirely based on the falsehood that the church he attends was directly linked to Hillsong.

        • Like a lot of churches back then, they were flirting with the Hillsong brand and Ol Brian Huston (w/e) wasn’t technically lying when he said it wasn’t part of the Hillsong Church but there were undeniably links.
          (If I recall Pratts churches founder did in fact have direct links to Hillsong but backed away quickly when all this went down)

          I agree with you, a lot of churches and celebs got caught up in the promotion and positive energy of the brand and we’re unfairly dragged in to the mud pit because of it.
          (And it’s definitely in bad form to continue the ridiculous conflation that a church who might’ve ended up under the umbrella at one stage was in fact reflective off all the terrible shit)

          I always found it weird that Pratt copped it the hardest when other celebs directly spruiked the Church and walked away clean.

          • People seem to want to destroy his life for no obvious reason. It was very much on display when low-IQ people on twitter claimed he was being offensive to his ex-wife when he dared to celebrate the birth of his new child with his new wife.

  • When you hate Chris Pratt *that* much and keep talking about how “problematic” he apparently is and keep writing crap like this, and yet you openly ignore Ezra Miller.

    This is a joke right?

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