On the one hand, I get it. Chris Pratt is a very bankable star, and despite being Worst Chris he remains widely popular among general audiences. Whenever he gets a new role, a big part of me understands why. Chris Pratt is good business. But there is a little part of me that still shrieks, BUT WHY? Because A-list status has stripped Pratt of all the charm and promise he possessed in the Parks & Rec days, his quest to be a mega-star has rendered him, like so many mega-stars before him, less interesting and unique, quashing what made him pop in the first place in favor of presenting a bland, oatmeal version of his persona to appeal to as many quadrants as possible (see also: Cruise, Tom). It is possible to be interesting and A-list, of course. Many people do it: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Leonardo DiCaprio (though he has reached self-parody off-screen). But you can always tell the actors who want that super mega status. Their personalities disappear into toothpaste grins and both-sides soundbites.
Chris Pratt’s latest BUT WHY casting is that he will voice Garfield the cat in a new animated movie. I assume Pratt is taking all this voiceover work lately because it’s relatively easy money and keeps him close to hearth and home with the family, and that’s fine. But he’s as wrong for Garfield as he is for Mario. WHY is Chris Pratt being cast in all these wrong animated projects? And again, a big part of me gets it. He’s bankable, and The LEGO Movie was a big hit. But there is still that little part of me raging about how he’s past his peak of interestingness and there are far, far better options for these voiceover roles. Like what about Chris Pratt, one-time schlub who famously got jacked and has spent nearly a decade as an action hero at this point, is right for the proudly lazy and schlubby Garfield? Ten years ago, yeah, sure. Chris Pratt circa Andy Dwyer makes a certain amount of sense as Garfield (or Mario, for that matter). But now? No! He’s not that guy anymore! He hasn’t been that guy for a while. This is like casting Tom Cruise as the Brave Little Toaster.
Voiceover acting used to be a specialty. People had whole, robust careers as voice over artists because it was considered a specialized form of performance. That all changed with Robin Williams and Aladdin, when suddenly having Movie Stars made your animated film, somehow, more appealing. Never mind that Disney Animation was already in their renaissance with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, neither of which feature celebrity voices, Robin Williams as the Genie convinced a generation of studio execs that celebrity voice overs are the only way to go. Thirty years later, voice over acting has been decimated as a specialty. There are exceptions, like Tara Strong, but they’re few and far between these days. Instead, we get Chris Pratt as Garfield. We live in a cursed era.