Thirty years since his first appearance in a video game, Mario is facing his biggest battle yet: on Twitter.
The cast of an upcoming feature film based on the escapades of Mario and his motley crew has been pilloried for its bizarre assemblage of A-list actors.
Revealed in a surprise announcement by Nintendo, the animated adaptation of the Super Mario Bros franchise will star Chris Pratt as the voice of the famously Italian plumber.
The film, which has been in development since 2017, will also feature comedian Charlie Day as long-suffering brother Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, and Jack Black as Bowser, a villainous anthropomorphic turtle.
Rounding out the cast are Seth Rogen and Fred Armisen as Donkey Kong and his grandfather, Cranky Kong.
Notably, no members of the cast are Italian – a fact that has spawned hundreds of jokes and memes on social media. It is unclear whether actors will perform their roles with an Italian accent.
chris pratt playing mario is italiaphobia and i'm tired of acting like it isn't
— hasanabi (@hasanthehun) September 23, 2021
chris pratt is playing mario pic.twitter.com/KiWVoVkY5z
— Vincent Martella (@VinMan17) September 23, 2021
modern italixn stories are told so rarely and even when they are we're not the ones telling them
— giabuchi's room (@jaboukie) September 24, 2021
the people behind the super mario bros. movie have gaba’d their last gool pic.twitter.com/gJJGjoftYQ
— sabrina ramirez (@sabrinaxmonica) September 24, 2021
Twitter users were also quick to share their own fan-casts for the Mario movie, comprised of Italian stalwarts like Robert De Niro and Danny DeVito, as well as – inexplicably – German auteur Werner Herzog.
imagine how powerful this could have been for italians pic.twitter.com/omQ424cNAS
— Mister Comics 🌹🦂 (@RamonVillalobos) September 23, 2021
Really upset that Danny Devito isn’t Mario
— Alexei Toliopoulos (@ThisisAlexei) September 23, 2021
Werner Herzog as Waluigi
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) September 23, 2021
This is not the first time Pratt has come under fire for his affiliation with a global franchise.
In 2019, his attendance at the megachurch Hillsong drew criticism from actor Elliot Page, who described the church as “infamously anti-LGBTQ”. Pratt denied the claim, saying his church “opens their doors to absolutely everyone” and that he “believes that everyone is entitled to love who they want”. Hillsong founder Brian Houston has previously said Hillsong welcomed gay people, “but we are not a church that affirms a gay lifestyle”.
Last year, Pratt made light of being voted the worst Hollywood Chris in an informal Twitter debate, amid a league that also included Chrises Pine, Evans and Hemsworth. “Who’s the better Chris? It’s one of them,” he said.
Chris Pratt first day of recording for new Super Mario Bros. movie pic.twitter.com/jzM6pzAWSj
— Alex Peter (@LolOverruled) September 24, 2021
Chris Pratt playing a character who wears a red hat is typecasting https://t.co/cgUxTNTJnd
— AME Youngboy (@MelechThomas) September 24, 2021
Everyone wants 2021 to be over but 2022 is already cursed https://t.co/dUKImt3wZ7
— Benjamin Law 羅旭能 (@mrbenjaminlaw) September 23, 2021
The casting controversy is something of an omen for a franchise that has been beleaguered by ill-fated adaptations.
In 1993, the hazard-prone Italian brothers were portrayed by Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo in Super Mario Bros: The Movie, a critical and commercial flop that was widely derided for its far-fetched plot and dystopian imagining of a family-friendly universe – so much so that the late Hoskins cited the film as his “worst job” and “biggest disappointment” in a 2011 interview with the Guardian.
I'm calling it now, the Mario Bros movie will NOT have Charles Martinet play Mario for no reason and cast someone like Chris Pratt
— StheGeneral (@general_sthe) May 21, 2020
The success – or otherwise – of the upcoming adaptation, set to be released late next year, will likely influence the future of Nintendo’s Hollywood ventures. The company has been traditionally protective of its properties, with American adaptations few and far between.