This weekend, Chris Pratt will appear in the country’s two biggest films. The Super Mario Bros. movie has made more than a billion dollars worldwide and has been number 1 in the US for four straight weeks. But this Friday it is bumped to second place Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3which seems to be a blockbuster. Add to that last year Jurassic World: Dominion also grossed a billion dollars, and it could be argued that Pratt is currently one of the biggest movie stars in the world.
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Did that last sentence make you roll your eyes? Then you might be one of the many people who dislike the 43-year-old actor. You may have enjoyed him once, but now? Oh, you’re tired of him – and you’re not alone. Recently, it seems that a significant portion of the population (at least on social media) has decided they’ve had enough of the man.
How did this happen? The internet has been trying to solve this conundrum for years, painstakingly dissecting its journey from endearing Parks and recreation star to cringing, uncool celebrity. And it’s not just BuzzFeed And Vulture Dive into the debate: Just a few weeks ago, the Christian magazine came out Relevant published an essay titled “Why has everyone turned on Chris Pratt?” which partly blamed his decline in popularity on fans’ discomfort with his religious faith. Judging solely by the box office, Pratt couldn’t be more beloved. But we live in the real world, where he is much less loved.
The Mary Sue provided with a convenient timeline of the countless reasons people have turned against Pratt, and most of them you probably remember, so it’s not worth trying all that again. (In a nutshell, people thought he was a member of Hillsong, a church with horribly homophobic views; he later said he had never been a member. People got angry when his second child was born, to his current wife Katherine Schwarzenegger, and he praised the baby for being “healthy,” which was seen as a criticism of his first wife, actress Anna Faris, who gave birth to his son, who has had health problems all his life. And before that, people were mad at him for separating from Faris, whom the world worships.) Of course, that’s not all — just the fact that he’s a vocal Christian also drives some people crazy — and by 2020, the steady drumbeat of criticism prompted the rest of Pratt’s Marvel crew go on a PR offensive to defend their buddy in light of a Twitter meme that decided he was the worst Chris.
When Pratt a in-depth profile with Men’s health last year, much of the piece was spent clarifying his views and explaining himself, which usually doesn’t happen when everyone thinks you’re awesome. The piling up got so bad that when he was announced as the voice of Mario in The Super Mario Bros. movie, people lost their minds. The public chorus was deafening: Why doesn’t that guy just go away?!?!
I’m often baffled when there’s backlash for a celebrity everyone liked. Suddenly, Anne Hathaway was abhorred. Same with Amy Schumer And Jennifer Lawrence. Sometimes the newfound animosity stems from the audience’s unhealthy parasocial relationship with the star. (“We thought John Mulaney was such a sweet man but then he divorced his wife and got Olivia Munn pregnant!”) We are all human and therefore prone to dislike certain famous people for their dumbest reasons, but overall I think the tsunami of people like negative comments are stupid Most of the time it has nothing to do with the actor’s job – it’s more of an unspeakable “I just find them annoying” rationale – and as long as they don’t do something really problematic I tend to do all that shut out noise and just concentrate on the CV.
But I think Pratt’s backlash goes beyond the usual social media grumbling. Sure, maybe you don’t dig the dude because he talks about the Bible. Yeah, I thought he and Faris were a cute couple too. But I’d put the blame on the screen instead. You didn’t have to have Pratt to have had high hopes for his movie career. And from a commercial point of view, there is certainly no arguing with its track record. (Even Passengersthat 2016 sci-fi movie he made with Lawrence that was universally panned actually did pretty well at the box office.) But creatively, he was mostly a huge letdown.
Really, I’m to blame Jurassic world.
Until that point, things were going pretty well for Pratt. It was the summer of 2015 and he had just finished his career Parks and Rec, playing the sweetly dense Andy Dwyer. The character was like a big, happy, goofy puppy dog - nice and sincere – and the relatively unknown Pratt was a pleasant surprise in the role. You couldn’t help but follow the man, and when he started popping up in small roles in big movies in the early 2010s, like Money ball And Zero dark thirty, it was always a treat. Then superstar came thanks The Lego movie And Guardians of the Universe, with Pratt on the good will many of us felt for him. He was a feel-good success story: how a dude who was once homeless in Hawaii climbed to the top of the Hollywood food chain without becoming a jerk in the process. It’s great when nice things happen with nice people.
But Jurassic world changed everything for me. It opened on June 12, 2015 and was one of the biggest hits of the year. Not that anyone could remember the name of Pratt’s character. Or whatever distinguishing feature he had. (Right, he always stretched out his arms to calm the huge beasts, but other than that? Search me.) In truth, Jurassic world‘s Owen Grady – I had to look that up – was just a bland replacement level hero who awkwardly flirted/bickered with Bryce Dallas Howard’s uptight lady on the replacement level. If you want to know what it would be like if two clichés fell in love, the romantic subplot involving Owen and Claire Dearing – I had to look that up too – is the depressing result. Pratt had never seemed so uncharming, so wooden, so “I really shouldn’t be here.” WHO used to be that guy?
To be fair, anyone can give a bad performance or get caught up in a bad movie. But in fast fashion, Jurassic world began to look less like an anomaly and more like a grim prophecy of things to come. I liked the one from 2017 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but I started to notice that it wasn’t really Pratt that made me care about that franchise – it was the characters around Peter Quill, like Drax, Rocket, and Gamora. Even behind heavy makeup or rendered digitally, those actors were more poignant than Pratt, who just seemed like a mediocre, old-fashioned swashbuckler. And later he was even more superfluous Avengers movies, where he struggled to make an impression among the superheroes you really cared about. If Guards belonged to Pratt Han Solo movement, Jurassic world felt like his Indiana Jones audition – maybe literally, as he was rumours replace for a while Harrison Ford when new Indy movies were put out.
But the more exposure we got to Pratt in big action movies, the clearer it became that he wasn’t Harrison Ford — and duds like The beautiful seven And Passengers suggested he might not be suited for westerns or romantic dramas either. Andy’s effortless weirdness was gone. In its place stood another sculpted, polished, empty movie star.
You will notice that I spent no time criticizing his politics. Is he a Republican? I don’t know – or any of his other extracurricular activities. (Before researching this piece, I was over his completely idiotic comment Hollywood doesn’t make movies about working-class characters.) But I suspect that people’s general irritation with his public persona/presence is at least somewhat related to the blandness he now projects on screen. I quite liked the new one Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but again, Pratt isn’t exactly the most compelling aspect of the film. A lot of the movie has to do with telling Rocket’s backstory in great detail, and it really works – especially when compared to Peter’s fine reunion with Gamora. It’s rare for the main star of a blockbuster to be one of the least interesting characters, but unfortunately it’s the odd superpower that Pratt brings to these films. He’s fine, and nothing more.
That perfection, I’d say, is what gets him into trouble as a celebrity. None of his many controversies are particularly blatant – at worst, he says stupid things without thinking – but together they create an impression of a man who may not be the most thoughtful or clever. Marrying a Schwarzenegger, getting cast in one big movie after another – good lord, he’s going in a Garfield movie – looks like he won a great lottery without actually deserving it. Yes, his movies have been huge hits, but how many of them were really because of him?
The “Why Him?” quality fuels the annoyance of the culture with its public blunders: we’re not entirely sure who decided he was going to be a big deal. People can hate Tom Cruise for his long association with Scientology and his obsessive qualities all they want, but at least viewers feel like they’re getting their money’s worth when they go see his movies. Pratt’s just a guy, so we get annoyed when we have to be reminded of his fame. Even worse, he’s rarely funny anymore, both on screen and off. It’s a shame to see what an uninspired superstar he’s become.
That said, who wouldn’t want to trade places with him? Rich, successful, famous, a Hollywood elite: it’s hard to feel sorry for the guy. Yet a contingent of the public is utterly turned off by him. You can point the finger at his faith, his hapless remarks, his divorce, his conservative tendencies, his time-tested earnestness. Unlike the other Chrises, there’s nothing cool about Chris Pratt. But none of that would matter if his movies were better. I’m not a Pratt hater, but I’m very disappointed. I have a feeling Andy would like the movies Pratt makes. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should too.