Before “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” hit theaters this April, the new film caused controversy online because of the voice of its main character. Chris Pratt voices Mario, the iconic plumber-turned-hero, but while fans are used to the character having an Italian accent in the video game, Pratt didn’t use one for the movie. Many fans wondered why Charles Martinet, the professional voice actor who gives life to Mario and his brother Luigi (Charlie Day in the film) in the video games, wasn’t tapped to voice them on screen as well.
Here’s what Pratt’s said about his accent in the film, and the one way the movie pokes fun at the accent drama with Martinet’s help.
What Chris Pratt Has Said About Mario’s Accent
Pratt has said he did try to go for a voice with a little bit more of an Italian — or at least Italian-American — edge, but his idea was rejected by the film’s directors, Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic. “For a minute, I walked in and they were like, ‘That’s a little New Jersey. You’re doing a Tony Soprano thing,’” Pratt told Entertainment Weekly in an article published April 6. Day, meanwhile, said that the directors told him he was a little too “Goodfellas” while they were figuring out the voice. Both ended up going for accents that are supposed to be more Brooklyn than Italian.
Pratt said nailing the accents — and making Mario and Luigi into full people — was “a really exciting and daunting challenge.” He explained to EW, “we had to really dig in and figure out, Are they Italian? Are they American? We know a little bit about Charles Martinet’s voice that he’s sprinkled in there with the ‘Wahoo!’ and ‘It’s-a me!’ and these Mario things, but how do you craft a 90-minute narrative with an emotional through-line and create a living, breathing person about who you’ll care?”
How “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” Addresses Mario’s Accent
The movie begins with brothers Mario and Luigi in Brooklyn, where they’ve started their new plumbing business, Super Mario Bros. The brothers watch their brand-new commercial on a TV at a pizza place, and in the ad they are doing the thick Italian accents that many fans expected. After they see the ad, they wonder if the accents were too much, and admit they spent all their money on the commercial. “Too much? It’s-a perfect, wahoo!” one of their customers, Giuseppe, says — and he’s voiced by Martinet, who also voices the brothers’ father as a nod to his Mario origins.
Mario and Luigi later head underground to try to fix a manhole leak and get sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom, where they meet Princess Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong, Bowser, and the other residents of the magical world, and their Brooklyn accents mark them as outsiders to the kingdom — exactly what’s needed to save the day.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is in theaters now.