Do the Mario Accent You Coward
Of course Chris Pratt, at his Chris Pratt-iest, would take the 'high road' of not going full Italian accent.
Perhaps the most unfortunate (?) thing about no longer working in journalism full-time is that my social media feeds have never been the same. Gone are the days of my timeline being flooded with daily news and related shitposts. Instead, the algorithm has pivoted to serving me Tweetdecked jokes from yesteryear. So when news actually hits my feed in real time, I know that its velocity was so strong that it permeated even the most normie corners of the internet. Case in point: patriotic drywall Chris Pratt’s terrible white-washed (??) Mario impression for the upcoming Super Mario Bros. Movie, which was revealed on Thursday.
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Here’s the teaser trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which dropped during an official Nintendo announcement. (Pratt’s vocal stylings come at the very end.)
I will say, it looks really cute! All the little penguins and koopas? Precious! Jack Black as Bowser? Menacing and fun! Bowser stealing (presumably) a star? Infuriating!!! (My husband and I bought the new Mario Party Superstars last year, which has led to no less than five fights over stealing stars — the pain!!!!).
Alas, the teaser led me to believe that maybe, maybe I would finally bring myself to watch one of these cartoon character reboots (sorry to Detective Pikachu and the Sonic series). Until I heard that voice. That completely, un-Italian, white pronounced with a “WH-,” sad excuse of a Mario impression. Here it is, isolated in audio form for you:
Sir, sir!!!!! What 🤌🏼 in 🤌🏼 the 🤌🏼 buca 🤌🏼 di 🤌🏼 beppo 🤌🏼 is 🤌🏼 this 🤌🏼 shit?????
I saw the trailer about an hour after it dropped, which means that, by the time I had learned just how bad Pratt’s voiceover was, the internet was knee-deep in It’s-a Me, Mario discourse.
“Updated?” OK, Jesus Christ. I knew very little about any potential “controversy” surrounding Pratt being cast as Mario, but like any diligent blogger, I bring to you what I’ve learned after googling for the past 10 minutes.
Back in June, Mario co-producer Chris Meledandri told Deadline that if anyone might be offended at Pratt, a non-Italian, being cast to play a character with a heavy, stereotypical Italian accent, they need not worry. From Deadline, emphasis mine, because lol:
“When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should.” He added, “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.”
Then a few days after, Pratt told Variety just as much while evoking a very silly image of him physically embodying a cartoon Italian 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,” Pratt said. “It’s an animated voiceover narrative. It’s not a live-action movie. I’m not gonna be wearing a plumber suit running all over. I’m providing a voice for an animated character, and it is updated and unlike anything you’ve heard in the Mario world before.”
I get why Pratt has toned down the Italian accent, but I didn’t even need this additional context to understand, because Pratt just has a track record of saying ignorant shit signaling to white people that he’s one of them. I can see him being like, “I’m going to loosely suggest the underpinnings of an Italian accent in my voiceover, and that should be enough to signal that Mario is Italian, without offending Italians by putting on a full-throated accent,” and then patting himself on the back for being a necessary corrective to decades of offensive portrayals of innocent Italian plumbers tasked with saving princesses from peril. (New Jersey cartoon moms, however, beware.)
But here’s the thing: it’s not even clear that any significant number of people were genuinely concerned over Pratt not being Italian and then potentially doing an Italian accent as Mario. No one really cared! Do the accent, you coward!! And I say that while also being Italian-American (my dad is a quarter Sicilian and his grandfather was purportedly a well-respected mob boss in Missouri, though this is the lore of like every Italian-American family so please refrain from fact-checking me lest I find out this is deeply untrue).
That is all to say that there are two reasons why Pratt didn’t do the accent, the first of which we’ve already covered (that he’s an earnest prick who grossly romanticizes the working class and is constantly punching the air for not having played the role of Captain America). The second is more of a conspiracy theory: maybe, despite no one giving a shit whether Pratt would be doing an Italian accent, the Mario folks saw an opportunity a la Sonic the Hedgehog — show Pratt doing shitty accent work to drum up a bunch of hate watches for the new teaser, and then reveal Pratt’s heavy Italian accent for the actual release of the film.
If I’m wrong, oh well! Chris Pratt is corny and was always going to make a bad Mario. All of this just makes me feel bad for Jack Black, who has clearly been tasked with carrying this entire franchise for Mario and however many sequels it gets. Shit, you could have cast Black as Bowser and Mario and gotten two incredible performances. Long live Jack Black!!!!!!!!! That is all!!
Honestly, now I'm just furious that we were denied an Austin Powers-esque casting job of Jack Black voicing Bowser and Mario.
If Luigi does the index-and-pinky point I'll consider the franchise saved. Until then...