Mario Bros. Producer Chris Meledandri Defends Casting Non-Italian Chris Pratt (Exclusive)

“As an Italian-American myself, I understand.”

According to Mario Bros. co-producer Chris Meledandri, Chris Pratt’s voice performance as the video game legend will win over fans and critics alike.

“All I can tell you is the voice that he’s doing for us, and Mario, is phenomenal,” the 62-year-old insisted upon a recent return to LAX. “Yeah I can’t wait for people to hear it.”

Pratt’s casting as the Japanese-created Italian plumber had some online up in arms, as they braced for the American actor’s potentially troublesome take on that over-the-top accent.

“Well, as an Italian American myself, I understand,” Meledandri conceded. “You know, I understand the comments.”

But he pointed out: “Charlie Day, who’s playing Luigi, actually comes from Italian heritage. Yeah so that’s our nod.”

Meledandri, the founder and CEO of Illumination, and the producer behind such smash hit franchises as Despicable Me, Ice Age, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing, hinted that the accent issue would be a self-referential joke within the film.

“We cover it in the movie,” he promised. “So you’ll see we definitely nod to that.”

He vowed that Pratt would not be leaning too heavily into the “It’s a-me, Mario!”

“That’s not the tenor of the performance throughout the film,” he said.

Film fans will recall similar outrage upon first viewing of Karen Gillan’s “degrading”, “skimpy” outfit for “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” — which of course, turned out to be part of a running gag taking aim at video game designers.

Similarly, Meledandri insists critics will not be coming to cancel Mario once they actually see it.

“I don’t think so. I think they’ll have to [see it],” he assured. “I don’t think so.”

Pratt, of course, is no stranger to voicing animated characters, playing Barley Lightfoot in Disney’s “Onward” and Emmet in “The Lego Movie” (as well as the Lego version of his Jurassic World character Owen Grady), and he’s also been cast as the voice of Garfield in the cat’s next big screen outing.

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