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Super Mario movie cast reactions: Chris Pratt playing Mario? We have thoughts

Commentary: Some big news came out of Nintendo Direct and it had nothing to do with playing video games.

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Chris Pratt is Mario.

Marvel

He was Andy Dwyer in Parks and Recreation. Star-Lord in The Guardians of the Galaxy. And now? Now Chris Pratt will be Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Animated Film.

A short, pudgy Italian plumber.

The casting news was announced at today's Nintendo Direct livestream, which is mainly focused on delivering information about Nintendo Switch games launching this summer. But the show set the internet alight with reactions to what has turned out to be slightly controversial casting.

A quick rundown of the rest of the voice cast:

  • Anya Taylor-Joy will play Princess Peach, who Mario's adventures are generally centered around rescuing
  • Jack Black will play villain Bowser
  • Seth Rogen will play Donkey Kong
  • Charlie Day will play Luigi
  • Keegan-Michael Key will play Toad
  • Fred Armisen will play Cranky Kong
  • Kevin Michael Richardson will play Kamek
  • Sebastian Maniscalco will play Spike
  • Charles Martinet, who has voiced Mario in the video games since 1992, will have surprise cameos

Some... interesting choices there. Choices which left several CNET staffers baffled and eager to discuss. Here are a few of our thoughts on the eyebrow-raising castings.

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Chris Pratt, aka "Mario".

Nintendo

Chris Pratt as Super Mario

Mark Serrels: I think we all don't like this right? Probably should be Italian or an Italian-American. The internet has sorta turned on Chris Pratt as well. It's got me wondering what kind of Mario they're going for here.

Mike Sorrentino: As a New Yorker, I can't help but feel like there are lots of New York City actors that have been overlooked in the pursuit of this role. Then again, Nintendo might be trying out a different kind of Mario? Maybe we're getting a college-age Mario? Some kind of mix between an origin story and what we get by Super Mario 64? I'll certainly want to hear his take on the Italian plumber out but the shock is apparent.

Steph Panecasio: I find it hard not to feel like Charles Martinet absolutely got dissed for this. He's right there! The OG voice! Chris Pratt is, in my books, an objectively poor choice for Mario regardless, but it feels all the more rough given that they had the perfect actor for it already. I also feel similarly to Mike in that Chris Pratt is definitely not the Italian plumber I was expecting -- and I swear on everything I own, if he does a dodgy accent I will riot.

Charlie Day as Luigi

Mark: Charlie Day is the epitome of a "that guy". I literally had to Google him then I was like, "oh… that guy!" But you know what? I think a "that guy" is the perfect choice for Luigi. I'm into it.

Mike: Charlie Day might be one of the least surprising casting choices. From It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Horrible Bosses, he has plenty of experience as a comedic sidekick looking to break out. But Luigi isn't known for being particularly loud and many of Day's characters are shouting their mouth off.

Steph: As someone who has loved Luigi with all her heart since day one, I'm admittedly a bit concerned about the casting, if only because I feel like Charlie -- while talented -- doesn't bring the right energy for Luigi. He's so often the frenetic, wild guy and Luigi doesn't have that vibe. Luigi is a little anxious dude who is often relegated to comedy sidekick, but I just don't think that Charlie Day has the vulnerability that comes part and parcel with Luigi. I'll be happy to be proven wrong, but I just don't think I will be. Justice for Luigi!

Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach

Mark: I am in shock. Absolute shock. This is the most mind blowing casting choice for me. Anya Taylor-Joy is like 100% one of the hottest stars in Hollywood right now. I'm stoked beyond belief she's playing Peach.

Jennifer Bisset: Yeah, all I know is Anya Taylor-Joy can do no wrong. The creator of The Queen's Gambit on the other hand… (see: Emmys speech).

Steph: This is perfect. I have absolutely no qualms about this one. Possibly the smartest casting choice the producers could have ever made.

Jack Black as Bowser

Adam Benjamin: I love Jack Black and believe he can make any role work. Honestly, my only disappointment here is the black hole of a missed opportunity to cast him as Wario.

Mark: Behind Anya Taylor-Joy's casting, this is the one I'm most excited about. Now they've announced Jack Black, I literally can't imagine anyone else voicing him.

Mike: I'm not worried at all about Jack Black as Bowser. Dig out 2009's Brutal Legend video game by Doublefine or watch some videos of the cutscenes -- he'll get the fire breathing dragon that keeps kidnapping a Princess thing down.

Steph: I have no doubts about Jack Black's ability to do this justice, but I have to agree with Adam -- total missed opportunity to not cast him as Wario!

Keegan-Michael Key as Toad

Mike: Similar to Jack Black as Bowser, I have no worries about Keegan-Michael Key in this movie and I hope as Toad he's in the entire movie and not just a pop up here and there. Watch him as Ducky in Toy Story 4 as he and Jordan Peele's Bunny steal that Pixar movie from the existential drama of Woody and Buzz.

Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong

Mark: What kinda Donkey Kong are we getting here? A wise-cracking Donkey Kong or someone grunting? Can't imagine Rogen heading into the booth to just make a few monkey songs, so I have to believe it's the former. This project could be absolutely hilarious.

Jen: Maybe it's a Vin Diesel, Groot-type situation.

Steph: I will be 100% on board with this as long as Seth Rogen's laugh doesn't somehow make it in -- I love the laugh, but it is definitely not a Donkey Kong laugh in my books. Would ruin the immersion!

Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong

Mark: Where is Funky Kong?

Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek

Jackson Ryan: Damn, really no love for one of the most accomplished voice actors -- not just on this list, but, in general? Kamek's going to be the absolute star of this thing. All these other "actors" ain't gonna know what hit 'em.

Surprise cameos from Charles Martinet

Mark: If I'm Martinet, I'm livid I'm not playing Mario. Point blank. It's clear they're going in a different direction, but still.

Mike: I hope Martinet has some additional executive producer or consulting credits on this. His 20-plus years of voicing Mario cannot be ignored. It's not unusual in this situation to pick a new actor when moving to a new format, for instance I thought Ben Schwartz did really well as Sonic the Hedgehog, but Martinet is a key part of that voice.

The Super Mario Bros. Animated Film is scheduled to arrive in theaters on Dec. 21, 2022.