You don’t need much experience canvassing the Mushroom Kingdom to know that Mario is one of the most famous canonically Italian characters we’ve ever known, so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher that the extremely non-Italian Chris Pratt was recently tapped to voice the overalled plumber in a forthcoming animated Super Mario Bros. movie. But even amid backlash, the film’s producer Chris Meledandri has defended the decision, saying that as an Italian-American himself, Italians shan’t be too offended by the casting.
“When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should,” Meledandri recently said during a discussion at the CineEurope film expo (via Deadline). “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 is also the co-founder of Illumination, the Universal Pictures-owned computer animation studio that’s responsible for bringing the Super Mario Bros. film to the big screen. The filmmaker also said that Illumination’s team-up with Nintendo is “the fulfillment of a really important objective,” adding: “Nintendo is one of the companies we respect and hold in high esteem; this collaboration I think is unprecedented in its closeness.”
Those criticizing Pratt’s lack of Italian-ness apparently are clueless to the fact that Mario has been voiced by Charles Martinet, and American voice actor, since 1992. But we get it — there’s not a lot else to be angry about right now, is there?
Aside from Pratt, the Mario cast is chock-full of recognizable voices. It’ll also star Jack Black as Bowser, Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike. The film is scheduled to hit theaters on December 21st, 2022.
Pratt is also set to voice Garfield in an upcoming film about the lasagna-loving, Monday-hating tabby.