A venn diagram with Garfield in one bubble and Mario inside the other bubble.

Art courtesy of Nicole Cortes.

Arts and Entertainment

Opinion: Chris Pratt is ‘Italian enough’ to play Mario in the upcoming film

Pratt's history in roles playing Italians makes his case strong.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/nicolecortes122523/" target="_self">Nicole Cortes</a>

Nicole Cortes

January 14, 2022
What does a grown man in overalls entrapped in what appears to be a toxic relationship with a person named Peach and a manipulative orange cat have in common?

Not only are they two of pop culture’s notable Italian characters — Mario and Garfield — but Chris Pratt will voice their animated characters. This announcement has resulted in an outpour of memes directed at “the erasure of Italians” in cinema and Pratt’s voice acting capabilities. 

Thus posing the question: Is Pratt qualified to voice Mario and Garfield?

While the memes surrounding his character choices are relatively recent, arguably, he has been playing Italian characters throughout the past decade.

Pratt coined the “imposter Italian” was born on Jun. 21, 1979, and has accumulated 66 acting credits throughout his career. I decided to conduct a deep dive into all of these credits to examine how many Italians Pratt had played throughout his career to pinpoint when his metaphorical Italian impersonation of fictional characters and pop culture icons truly began. 

Starting off with a short film produced in 2000, “The Cursed Witch Part 3,” Pratt stars as Devon, a bratty actor who just got his big break starring as the male lead in a Blair Witch project spin-off. If we can assume that the character Devon (Pratt’s character) reprises in the rip-off is Michael C. Williams, then the character he is playing had a part in a movie titled “The Italian Job.”

To surmise Pratt is essentially playing the role of a character who is playing the role of a character played by Michael C. Williams who once had a role-playing someone of Italian descent. (Some will argue that this is a reach but to each their own.)

In the 2005 film “Strangers with Candy,” Pratt plays the character Brason who is a jock but with a twist: slicked-back hair.

In a paper written by Kristina Piersanti, she analyzes the portrayals of Italian Americans in U.S-Produced Films. She found that a physical attribute Italian American characters shared was the men either slick or part their hair back.

Does this mean that every character with slicked-back hair portrays an Italian American on-screen? Absolutely not.

However, in the vain of leaving no stone unturned through my analysis, I decided to note it given that Brason is sporting a slicked-back mullet cut in an early 2000s movie and not the 80s.

There are two honorable mentions I would like to award before moving onto the finale in the search for Italian characters Pratt has played.

The first honor goes out to Pratt in the 2012 Kinect Star Wars: Duel TV Movie, where he voices Obi-Wan Kenobi. While Kenobi may rhyme with Cannoli, there is no Italian lineage in this character, folks.

The second honor goes out to Pratt’s role in the movie Delivery Man in 2013 as the character Brett. His character may not be Italian, but the word Italy is once mentioned as an essential plot point for characters reminiscing on past regrets. (The regret being not having their dream honeymoon in Italy.)

The grand finale in this search features one of Pratt’s superhero characters Peter Quill. Quill, a.k.a Starlord, is not of Italian descent; however, his spaceship probably is! His ship, the Milano, was translated into Milan in the French translation of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Pratt has played the role of a man pretending to play a guy who once did a job as an Italian character, a character who could arguably be considered Italian according to research, a man whose name rhymes with an Italian sweet, a movie whose script featured the concept of Italy and a space hero whose ship was mistranslated into the name of an Italian city.

So to answer the question: Is Chris Pratt qualified to voice Mario and Garfield?

It would be best if you looked inside yourself for that answer.

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