In a devastating blow to the seven people who are unironically excited for the film, the Mario movie has been delayed from its Holiday 2022 slot into April 2023. Delays of animated movies aren't uncommon, as modern animation takes a long time to polish and we haven't seen anything of this movie bar a poster with the cast's names. Animated movies are often some of the most aware of their competition too, understanding that the children who want to see them are accompanied by adults who have to shell out for several tickets at once, and asking them to do so multiple times a month rarely leads to success. However, if this was the reason, the only feasible animated competition comes from Across the Spider-Verse, which on the same day as Mario's delay into April 2023, announced it was delayed into June 2023, which gives both films some breathing room until Minion Hard With A Vengeance is announced and sweeps the Spring 2023 animation box office.
There are likely other factors at play than Spider-Verse, however. While there is some crossover between Mario and Spider-Verse fans (not least adults like myself who apparently never fully grew up), they don't feel like they're in direct competition too much. In fact, geeky adults are probably the only ones who will be glad at not having to make a choice this December. While lots of children like Spider-Man, Spider-Verse had the plot and themes you'd expect in a teenager-oriented movie, even if the presentation was jazzy enough to entertain all viewers. Mario, meanwhile, will likely be a cuddly family movie pitched first and foremost at younger children but with enough charm and heart to reach the adults too – although with perhaps a little too much schmaltz for the cynical teenagers who'd much rather watch Miles struggle with puberty in Spider-Verse.
In any case, the countdown to hearing Chris Pratt's Mario voice just got reset to a year. Sure, we'll hear it in a trailer before then, but nothing will quite compare to 90 minutes of whatever the hell Pratt ends up doing. I'm still not over the casting, so perhaps a lengthy delay will be enough time to digest it. When the cast was first revealed, we all just laughed and raised our eyebrows, but with the Mario movie back in the news, maybe we should have a think about exactly how strange this cast is.
Let's start in the most obvious place – Pratt as Mario. Pratt is unpopular for a variety of reasons on the internet, some justified, some goofy memes, and some, to be polite, a bit of a stretch. Pratt has proven himself to be a solid actor, making the transition from comedy sidekick to leading man, which coincided with dropping weight and getting ripped. He hit his peak around the time cinema embraced what is sometimes called 'Whedonisation', so-named for Joss Whedon. It's that thing we see in basically every blockbuster these days where the characters make meta jokes, wink after every line, and can't let a single emotional moment pass over them without cracking wise. Pratt is an excellent Whedoniser, making him a good fit for The Lego Movie, Jurassic Park, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, some people don't like how saturated Whedonisation has become, and therefore don't like Pratt. Robert Downey Jnr, one of the best Whedonisers around, can turn it off on cue as we saw in The Judge. Pratt, thus far, has not demonstrated that ability.
Then there's his personal life. Pratt and Ana Faris seemed like a cosy, cutesy couple, but after their divorce Pratt's position in the public eye changed. He embraced religion through the controversial Hillsong Church, which has been accused of supporting conversion therapy, and was spotted wearing t-shirts embracing Libertarian and Republican slogans. He also lost an online poll for 'worst Marvel Chris', prompting an outpouring of support from his fellow Marvel stars, which all seemed a bit pathetic. He also once said he opens pickles for his new wife, which made people extremely mad, highlighting how silly the reaction to Pratt has become, even if some resentment or distrust has been earned. He also sounds nothing like Mario and in his previous voice work has just used his own voice. I don't know how good a Mario Pratt will be, but that shouldn't distract us from the rest of the cast which otherwise feels pitch perfect.
Jack Black is an excellent Bowser. The character doesn't really 'speak' in the traditional sense in the games, but going for someone as animated as Black feels much better than casting someone like Josh Brolin and trying to make him into a terrifying villain. Likewise, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad and Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong feel inspired. There's definitely an issue in animation with casting big names over working voice actors (should Zendaya even have been Meechee?), but for characters like Bowser, Toad, and Donkey Kong, just picking actors who are very funny seems like an easy route to success. The same goes for Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, while it's nice to see Kevin Michael Richardson, a perennial 'Additional Voices' guy, have his name right there on the poster.
Charlie Day as Luigi relies very heavily on Chris Pratt, as they will need to have strong chemistry and the same accent (whatever that accent is), but on the face of it he seems like an excellent pick. It's another example of 'just give it to someone funny', and he did a better job of capturing a character that wasn't just himself in The Lego Movie than Pratt did. Day's usual over the top and eccentric style doesn't seem like the best fit for the shy and nervous Luigi, but it's worth giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Then we come to the least discussed, yet most interesting member of the cast: Anya Taylor-Joy. ATJ is playing Princess Peach in the movie, and is quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Pratt has lead blockbusters, and the rest of the cast are go-to funny guys, but none are quite on the level as Taylor-Joy. She swept through the awards with The Queen's Gambit, and has two Oscar bait movies releasing this November: Canterbury Glass and The Menu. While she plays a supporting role in Canterbury alongside a stacked cast of Margot Robbie, Christian Bale, John David Washington, Robert de Niro, and Taylor Swift, she is the female lead in The Menu and with The Northman already in the bag, could well finish 2022 having featured in three of its best movies. She is a star rapidly on the rise, and seeing how she plays Peach surrounded by a bunch of very loud jokers she usually doesn't spend much screen time with will be fascinating.
The jury is still out on whether Chris Pratt will be a good Mario, but with the conversation so loaded around him, some people will have already decided either way. Beyond him though, the Mario movie seems to have an excellent cast ready to carry it, but we still won't find out for another year.
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