Luke Owen looks at why 2014 will be the year of Chris Pratt…
Fans of Parks and Recreation will already know the name Chris Pratt. Outside of Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, Pratt’s loveable and slightly dense Andy Dwyer is one of the most beloved elements of the hit show. Whether he is shining shoes, singing for Mouse Rat or being his alter-ego Bert Macklin, Chris Pratt never fails to raise a laugh. His comedic timing is perfect, he can do slapstick when needed and he is charismatic and good-looking enough to command the screen even when he is just in the background. As a supporting actor he’s great, but now is the time to show that he can also be the leading man. 2014 is going to be Chris Pratt’s year.
Every year, without fail, a new emerging actor comes out of the woodwork to star in a big budget action movie and is tipped to be ‘the next big thing’. In the past we’ve seen the likes of Sam Worthington and Taylor Kitsch prepped to take the title, mostly due to their baby-face good looks and ability to strike cool poses on a movie poster. But once the glean has fallen from Avatar and John Carter, you realise that good looks is all they have. Neither actor is particularly bad, they’re just functional at best. To become ‘the next big thing’ one must be able to show they can do more than just look good on a poster and remember lines of dialogue. They must be able to show versatility and, more importantly, have a presence about them that makes people want to buy a movie ticket to see them.
Chris Pratt has this.
Some might be hesitant to back Pratt as a leading man, seeing him as just a sitcom actor. But let us not forget where Ashton Kutcher got his humble beginnings. And Unlike Worthington and Kitsch, Pratt isn’t an actor who is all style and no substance.
Last month Pratt showed that he was more than just the ‘likeable simpleton’ in the poorly marketed Delivery Man. His role was simplistic in nature, to be the comedy best friend to the mis-cast Vince Vaughn and the trailer marketing posed him as such. But once you actually get into the meat of the movie and realise it’s more than just your typical “Vince Vaughn Comedy” you’ll find that Pratt pulls off scenes that require straight acting, namely the court scenes that happen at the start of the third act. While reviewing the movie, I noted that Delivery Man would have benefited from someone other than Vaughn in the lead role as he carries with him 10-or-so years of bad-to-average comedy movies that weighed down the project and that Pratt would have made for a much better leading man. Had Delivery Man been made away from the Hollywood system (like the movie it was based on had) and been manufactured with indie movie sensibilities, there is no doubt that Pratt would have been given the David Wozniak role and the movie would have been all the better for it.
But there are two movies out this year that are putting Chris Pratt in the leading role ahead of being one of the major players of next year’s Jurassic World: The LEGO Movie and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
The LEGO Movie has surprised a lot of people by being met with almost universal praise, except those who loved Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, who were harbouring high expectations from the start. And within that, it’s Chris Pratt who has been given a lot of credit for the movie’s success and enjoyment. Providing voice work is not as easy as one would think and many seasoned actors struggle to do anything more than simply reading lines. Looking back at last year’s The Croods, the majority of the cast are fine with the exception of Nicolas Cage who struggled give Grug a defined character through his voice alone. In the end, Grug was just a series of ones and zeroes that sounded like Nic Cage. In fact, the entire voice cast of Turbo suffered through the same problems with Ryan Reynolds sounding more bored than he was on the set of R.I.P.D.. But just from watching the trailer, you can see that Pratt isn’t simply reading from a script – Emmet has been bought to life and Pratt has given him a personality fitting of a leading (LEGO) man. This is just another string to the man’s already impressive bow.
Providing a voice is one thing, but being one of the central elements of one of the year’s biggest movies (and biggest risks for Marvel) is another. Taking on the role of Peter Quill in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is sure to cement Pratt as ‘the next big thing’. Being that this is a Marvel production, there is a high chance we’ll see the cheeky comedy side of Pratt we’ve all come to love, but it will also give him the chance to flex his acting (and action) muscles in a leading role in a big budget comic book movie. Guardians of the Galaxy is a space gamble for Marvel, but this should be the movie that propels Chris Pratt into the public eye. They are not taking this project lightly and the rumoured plans for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as part of Phase Three is a clear indication that their marketing machine will be behind this movie (and therefore Pratt) once the trailer is released. Guardians of the Galaxy could be a huge jumping block for Pratt to then take on more challenging roles, just as Chris Hemsworth did with last year’s critically acclaimed Rush.
And good for him. Many actors get given the ‘next big thing’ moniker, but Chris Pratt is an actor who genuinely deserves it. He has worked hard to reach this stage of his career and he has enough talent to see it through. And while 2014 will be the year to launch him into the stratosphere (both figuratively and literally), for Chris Pratt it’s just the start.