I had an… extreme reaction when it was revealed that Chris Pratt is playing Mario. I do not enjoy seeing Mr. Pratt’s face or hearing his voice ever since he became Hollywood’s de facto bland, inoffensive everyman, and from what little I know about his politics and personal life, I don’t imagine I’d enjoy him on a personal level either. Mario on the other hand, is a man I quite enjoy. He and I go way back to the NES days, and I’ve always loved his work. There was no way Chris Pratt was ever going to be good, no matter how much he tried to hype us up about it. The trailer debuted and, as expected, Mario opened his mouth and Chris Pratt’s normal speaking voice came out - albeit with the lightest dusting of a Brooklyn accent.
Finally hearing Mario’s movie voice made me feel like that kid from the failed Pet Hospital scheme on Nathan For You. The concept was to film a video of a child’s dog before they were put down and dubbed in a voice to explain that it was heaven now so there’s nothing to worry about. Is me hearing Chris Pratt play Mario the same as a six-year-old hearing a stranger’s voice come out of their dead dog’s mouth? But I had the same tearful reaction as he did when I screamed at the TV, “That’s not what Mario sounds like!” Maybe this movie is secretly a Nathan Fielder scheme too.
The problem is that there was no way Pratt was going to impress me. Short of doing a perfect Charles Martinet impression, anything Pratt did was going to sound wrong. I was always going to hate it, and I can’t exactly fault Chris Pratt for being Chris Pratt. At the same time, if he’s doing anything interesting with the character, this trailer doesn’t show it.
There’s definitely a logic behind casting a zero like Pratt as Mario. The Mushroom Kingdom is a vibrant, magical world, and Mario is being positioned as the audience's window into it. The short trailer makes it clear that Mario isn’t from here - he’s thrown into this unknown world and immediately called to adventure. We’ll discover the world through Mario’s eyes, and his unfamiliarity with the setting and the characters will drive a lot of the humor. Pratt, like Worthington in Avatar or Gibson in Mad Max, is meant to be a proxy for the audience - a deliberate open space for us to insert ourselves into. All the other characters will make the movie - just as they made the trailer - while Mario will just sort of be there, because Pratt is just sort of there.
This is proven Hollywood story telling, but it undersells Mario to an extent. Though he’s always been a mostly-silent protagonist, he has a lot more personality than the film would give him credit for - certainly more than what Pratt can offer. He isn’t, or shouldn’t be a total cipher while the rest of the cast bounces around full of wacky fun. Pratt doesn’t have the range or personality to to keep up with the likes of Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, or Charlie Day, but I see now that that’s exactly why he was cast. His Mario voice was never going to be good, and I don’t think it was ever supposed to be.