So by now, you’ve probably seen the teaser trailer Nintendo released for the animated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” It’s colorful and funny and action-packed and…disappointing. Not from a visual perspective, mind you. and it’s too early to tell what the story line will be. But it also hints at a confirmation of what we tried to warn you about: Chris Pratt is just not a good voice actor.
First, let’s talk about the good. From a visual animation perspective, this movie looks gorgeous. Bowser’s flying platform looks like the best version of “Mario Odyssey” brought to the screen. It glides on screen with all the menace of an imperial destroyer from “Star Wars,” topped with King Koopa’s iconic face leering out like that weird face on the front of Benito Mussolini‘s compound.
Then, it starts loosing gigantic spiked balls that shatter the ice below, and you’re struck with just how massive this platform is. By the time you’re finished marveling at the clever decision to have these spiked balls act as anchors (reminiscent of our antagonist’s love of airships) dragging the platform to the ground, you’re struck by just how massive the platform actually is.
That’s not just a platform. That’s an entire final world! Stages 8-1 through 8-4 just touched down outside this glowing blue city and they. Look. Amazing. There’s no doubt this will be a final set piece for the film, because look at that thing. It’s incredible. And the big man himself is just as intimidating. “Star Wars” leaps once again to mind as Bowser emerges from a lava-lit doorway, wreathed in smoke and carrying himself like someone ready to stomp the galaxy into shape.
He’s met by the penguins who provide our first glimpse of the type of comedy we’ll see. First there’s another stunningly detailed shot of them bracing against the snow
And they launch their counter-offensive. A barrage of snow balls flies through the air, pummeling into the invader to do….basically nothing.
Look at Bowser’s face. Look how mildly annoyed he is. He’s waiting for them to finish like a Power Rangers villain patiently waiting for a pack of 90s teenagers to go through their individual transformation sequences. He looks like a coworker just asked a question he knows it going to extend this meeting another 30 minutes. And he responds accordingly.
There’s no mistaking that this movie LOOKS incredible. It’s almost hard to believe that this is the same studio that made the Minions movies. And then there’s the voice acting. Jack Black, who voices the iconic villain, has clearly done his homework. King Koopa’s voice is growling and intense while maintaining a booming clarity that mixes 80s pro-wrestling villainy with enough menace to make people on Twitter thirsty. Keegan-Michael Key, who plays Toad, also has an explosive first appearance, managing to make Toad frenetic without being grating. And then…there’s Pratt.
His performance isn’t terrible, it’s just the weakest in the trailer. Black and Key bring performances that are transformative and lively, that bring energy and life to the characters. Pratt…doesn’t. His Mario doesn’t sound particularly grating, it’s just Chris Pratt. With the vaguest hints of a New York accent. Sometimes.
What makes the whole performance so disappoint is how MUCH Pratt talked up the voice. While he was technically correct when he said his take on Mario would be “unlike anything you’ve heard” in the Mario universe…that’s usually to herald something spectacular instead of just Chris Pratt’s normal speaking voice. It enhances the disappointment that fans have expressed since from when it was first revealed that Charles Martinet, the iconic voice of Mario from the games, was having his rightful place supplanted by the Marvel Studios star. Especially since Martinet is still in the movie somehow.
We want to be perfectly clear: the movie looks incredible. Every other voice we’ve heard, every visual effect we’ve seen, every bit of comedic timing have all been spectacular. But Pratt has been out of place in this cast from the beginning, and this lackluster voice only highlights that disparity. We’ll have to see how things shape up in future trailers. Maybe he’ll sound less like a half-hearted Linda Belcher impression and more like the energetic plumber we’ve come to know and love over the years.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is set to hit theaters April 7th, 2023. Check out the teaser now: