In 1993, Cockney legend Bob Hoskins starred in a movie he would go on to describe as the worst job of his career. Accompanied by John ‘Sid the Sloth’ Leguizamo, the Shakespearean thespian threw on a red and blue boiler suit, a porno mustache, and adopted a Brooklyn accent to play a video game character he’d never heard of.
Watching the trailer for the new Super Mario Bros. Movie, I can’t help but think of 1993’s brilliantly awful Super Mario Bros. The original live-action adaptation bears little resemblance to the games I spent Saturday mornings fixated by, instead featuring a fungus-clad Dinohattan (why?), turtle-headed goombas (why?, again), and Dennis Hopper sporting a Gene Simmons tongue (is it sexy or disgusting?). It was messed up and awful – and I love it to this day.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is animated rather than live-action – though I would have paid a lot of money to see Jack Black in a cardboard Bowser costume. Created by Illumination, the studio behind Despicable Me, the trailer for this new Mario movie adaptation suggests this film will be as vibrant, funny, and family-friendly as we would expect.
Video game films have come a long way since the first Mario film adaptation, but there’s one aspect that the new movie seems to have borrowed from the original: Mario’s Brooklyn accent.
Most of the responses I’ve seen to the trailer are jokes about Chris Pratt’s accent, but I never expected Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Movie to have an Italian accent, especially once Pratt was announced as his voice actor. If he’d attempted one, it likely would have simply been perceived as an offensive caricature. Only the lovable Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario in the video game series, gets away with an over-the-top accent for the Italian plumber.
But, while Pratt isn’t doing an Italian accent, he certainly isn’t just doing “his own voice” either – something I’ve seen an abundance of tweets claiming. Sure, it’s difficult to assess based on the brief clips of Mario speaking in the trailer, but how people can’t hear Pratt’s Brooklyn twang escapes me. Just listen to when Mario says “Mushroom Kingdom, here we come!”
Now, that doesn’t by any means mean it’s a good accent, but it’s certainly not just Chris Pratt’s voice. What’s more, while a Brooklyn accent for Mario may seem off to those who are used to the modern Mario games, both Hoskin’s and Pratt’s Mario accents are actually pretty authentic in their roots. Don’t believe me? I have the receipts.
Hoskin’s Mario movie isn’t even the first time Mario’s sounded like he's from Brooklyn. That would be The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. Released in 1989, this series consisted of live-action and animated elements, with Mario and Luigi speaking in Brooklyn accents.
And there wasn’t anything wrong with that back in 1989, nor was there anything wrong with the Super Mario Bros. actors using the same accent in 1993. After all, Mario didn’t exactly have an official voice then. Charles Martinet wasn’t publicly recognized as the voice of Mario until the release of Super Mario 64 in 1996 (though his uncredited debut was with the 1992 Super Mario Bros. pinball machine).
While Mario didn’t have a heap of backstory back in the 80s and early 90s, one thing we did know for sure was he was an Italian plumber living in New York. So, given that New York has the second-largest Italian population outside of Italy, and a large number of that population lives in the borough of Brooklyn, it’s easy to see how this accent was landed upon before Martinet introduced Mario’s exaggerated Italian accent in 1996. If anything, it’s more true to Mario’s original concept than the direction Martinet took the character.
In fact, Martinet’s direction – by his own admission – wasn’t really planned. When he “crashed” the audition for Mario, he intended to do a stereotypical Italian-American mobster accent before deciding it probably wasn’t suitable for a children’s game. Instead, he opted to do the voice of an older, friendlier Italian man, based on his previous role as Petruchio in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The last-minute change-up resulted in the Mario we know today.
I’m jumpin’ here
It’s possible Pratt’s accent is a purposeful throwback to the Marios of old, but it could also be that the filmmakers simply wanted to differentiate Pratt’s Mario from Martinet’s. Either way, whenever I hear a rubbish Brooklyn accent coming out of that little red plumber, I will think of the late Bob Hoskins.
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Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.