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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Celebrities aren’t voice actors: How Nintendo screwed over Charles Martinet

Celebrities+aren%E2%80%99t+voice+actors%3A+How+Nintendo+screwed+over+Charles+Martinet

Recently, news broke that the newest Nintendo movie has a stacked cast of A-list celebrities voicing its main characters. Among them is Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong, and Charlie Day as Luigi. While Charles Martinet—the voice actor for all Mario appearances for the last 25 or so years—will be in the cast, he won’t be playing Mario. Instead, press reports that he will be appearing as a surprise cameo.

Who will be playing Mario, you ask? The iconic voice of Mario will be performed by none other than A-list Jurassic World and The Lego Movie star Chris Pratt. What qualifies Chris Pratt to be Mario? That’s a good question, and Nintendo fans have been asking that for the past few days. The answer seems to be that he’ll bring in the most money. With a glitzy cast like the one announced, it would be strange for the star of the show, Mario himself, to be played by anyone other than a famous celebrity actor.

My question is, what does this say about Nintendo’s hopes for the movie? It’s scheduled for theaters in late 2022. The holiday season release and the cast both suggest that the movie is a cash-grab, meant to make money off of families and nostalgics alike in theaters, and to fade into the distance as a worthless piece of pop film that no one will ever buy on hard copy. With behind-the-scenes names with credentials in The Lego Movie 2, Teen Titans, and Minions 2, the movie seems to be trying to go the Wreck-It Ralph route. The film will be produced alongside the studio that produced Despicable Me, and the creator of Mario is apparently helping with the screenplay.

Regardless of the quality of the movie, which could really go either way, the recent trend of casting celebrities in place of professional voice actors is getting tiring. No one can replace the people trained to do what voice actors can do, and denying them important creative work seems like a money-making strategy made by boardroom executives—or worse, the very producers and writers meant to support their voice artists. 

I have a hard time believing that Chris Pratt will make “It’s-a me, Mario!” sound convincing or genuine. At most, it will be an “Oh, that’s Chris Pratt” moment for fans, breaking the illusion of animation that’s so important for immersion for the sake of a 5-second moment of celebrity awe. After that, convincing yourself it’s Mario will be an active feat. For children especially, it’s doubtful Pratt’s Mario impression will live up to Martinet’s.

Pratt has already starred in a similar children’s animated movie based on a common play-line: The Lego Movie. To be honest, his voice acting work was pretty sub-par in that, too. The less he sounds like Chris Pratt, the lower the perceived value of the film, so he can’t even play around that much in the first place. The Lego Movie also didn’t have a pre-voiced, iconic character with the original voice actor around and available for filming. Mario is a tall order. If a character like Mario can lose artistic integrity this quickly, what’s next for voice acting in film?

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