Reacting to the Mario movie castings and controversies

Written By Zack Lawry, Co-News Editor

Last week in a Nintendo Direct presentation, the main cast for the upcoming Illumination Mario movie was officially announced. Although the film is not scheduled for release until 2022, Super Mario Bros: The Movie has generated plenty of attention for a variety of reasons, from Illumination’s so-so film catalogue to the lasting legacy of the previous attempt at a Mario film.

The announcement was a surprise on its own, but managed to further light the internet ablaze with a number of casting choices that could be best described as “bold.”

The reactions to each casting have varied widely from overwhelmingly positive to staggeringly negative. Fan responses have reflected not only how well audiences feel that the chosen actors fit the roles they’ve been cast in, but the personal histories and controversies of the actors as well.

Personally, I feel that most of the roles are very well-cast. For example, Charlie Day as Luigi. Charlie Day has become popular as a masterful comedy actor, known for his role as Charlie Kelly in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Likewise, Luigi is also known for being a particularly comedic character, often serving as the punchline of various gags throughout the Mario series. Luigi has also built a reputation as a lovable underdog who doesn’t mind not being in the spotlight, traits he shares in common with Always Sunny’s Charlie Kelly. Most importantly, though, is Charlie Kelly’s alter-ego in the show, the aptly-named Green Man. As such, it’s no wonder why Day was chosen to portray the green-garbed Luigi in the upcoming movie.

Another, albeit more controversial, example of a casting I personally approve of is Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong. Despite not being human, the laid-back gorilla in a tie has had a few fully-voiced portrayals over the years, such as the 90’s Donkey Kong Country television series. Although some feel that Rogan is not a fit for DK, I would argue that Rogan’s calm, fun-loving personality lines up quite nicely with Donkey Kong. Plus, you can’t pretend that Donkey Kong hasn’t hit a Donkey Bong at least once or twice before.

Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach further cement a very solid cast. However, the single best casting in the film (and maybe in history) is undoubtedly Jack Black as Bowser. Full disclosure – Jack Black is my favorite actor, and Bowser is my main in Smash Bros, so one could say that I have a bit of a bias here. Regardless, Jack Black as Bowser is an inspired choice. Black is famous as both a comedy actor and musician as part of rock duo Tenacious D. Considering Black’s history as a metal musician, he’s a great choice for Bowser who is pretty metal in his own right. For example the floors of his house are literally made of lava.

Although most of the casting provides plenty of reason to look forward to the movie, one role in particular has drawn the ire of many fans – unfortunately, that role happens to be the biggest one. The titular protagonist of the Mario series will be played by Chris Pratt in the 2022 movie. Pratt is known for his roles in Parks & Recreation, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Lego Movie, and the Zoe Church.

In 2019, fellow actor Elliot Page publicly criticized Chris Pratt for his connections to the “infamously anti-LGBTQ” Zoe Church. Although Pratt himself denied these claims and voiced some support for the community. However, many fans aren’t quite satisfied with Pratt’s response, namely due to an absence of any action to back up his apparent support of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Although Pratt is not openly homophobic himself, it’s not hard to see why some are still hesitant to dismiss their concerns entirely. Regardless, this controversy is not the only issue that has been raised with Pratt’s casting. Alongside the other cast announcements last week, it was also revealed that Charles Martinet, longtime voice of Mario in the games and other media, would also cameo in the film. This has sparked some backlash as some fans feel that Martinet is being thrown aside in favor of someone more famous.

Personally, I feel that these concerns are valid, though it is also possible that Martinet’s iconic Mario voice is not well-suited to a full-length film. However, even if Martinet is not considered, Chris Pratt would still not be most people’s choice. Numerous actors have been championed by fans for the role (I’m partial to Danny Devito myself), but it is unlikely that anything will be changed.

Ultimately, audiences have two options – either give the movie a chance or ignore it, as recasting is not a realistic option at this point. Although I agree with the sentiment that Chris Pratt is not an ideal pick for the titular role, I posit that this is not enough reason to write off the movie entirely just yet.

The 2022 Mario movie is not, and never was, meant to be a serious adaptation of the video games. Instead, the movie will be a fun experience meant to entertain people of all ages, just like the source material. For that reason, I would argue that fans give the movie and its controversial cast a chance, as it just might surprise you. Then again, it could also be a trainwreck, but as long as I’m getting Jack Black as Bowser I can’t complain.