In the 70s, John Travolta went from playing an Italian American slacker on the critically drubbed sitcom ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ to portraying an emotionally conflicted variation of the same character in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and took off as Hollywood’s newest superstar. In the 80s, it was the scruffy Bruce Willis who shed his soapy detective drama ‘Moonlighting’ and went on to movie fame with the explosive ‘Die Hard.’ And in the 90s, Will Smith went from being a comedic novelty rapper to PG sitcom actor to one of the most surefire draws at the box office, with a string of massive hits.
And now, it’s Chris Pratt‘s turn. In the entertainment industry, movies are often considered the fine steak dinner compared to the greasy fast food of television and rarely do actors on either side of the equation cross over to the other. But once in a great while, a particular actor’s star quality proves too great to contain and it would seem that has occurred.
Pratt spent the last seven years playing the dim-wit with a heart of gold, Andy Dwyer on the ensemble sitcom ‘Parks and Recreation,’ a critically acclaimed program that, despite its lengthy run, was never a ratings smash, regularly landing shy of the Top 100.
But now, Pratt’s second leading role in a theatrical action blockbuster, ‘Jurassic World’ scored the largest opening weekend of all time. Of. All. Time.
This follows on the heels of Pratt’s star turn in Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ last year, in which he served as the human lead surrounded by aliens, a talking raccoon and a monosyllabic tree. ‘Guardians’ is based on an obscure comic, that even many die-hard readers aren’t familiar with, yet it came in as the third highest-grossing movie of the year.
Back to the present, in its second weekend, ‘Jurassic World’ stayed on top, fending off Disney/Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ which was no slouch, scoring the studios’ best opening weekend for an original story and its second best opening over all, just shy of ‘Toy Story 3”s bow.
Naysayers could point out that Pratt’s successes thus far have been as part of existing franchises, but ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ was the third film appearance of its title character and much more closely tied in to the MCU as a whole, yet the offbeat ‘Guardians’ outperformed it with over $333 million versus Cap’s $259 million.
The first ‘Jurassic Park’ shattered records, but its two sequels failed to recapture the magic and fared worse and worse at the box office. Many in ‘Jurassic World”s audience weren’t even born in 2001, when the last installment, ‘Jurassic Park 3’ barely cracked $100 million. Since then, the franchise has laid dormant. Sure the appeal of giant rampaging dinosaurs is pretty undeniable, but it couldn’t have hurt to feature the likeable Pratt as the lead (human) actor.
Along with last spring’s ‘The Lego Movie,’ in which Pratt provided the voice of lead character Emmett, that makes not just three smash hits, but three hits that blew away any expectations that studios and insiders had for these films.
“I don’t know how else to say it other than: He’s a movie star,” Frank Marshall, producer of ‘Jurassic World’ admits. “We were fortunate to have found him when we did.”
Colin Trevorrow, Pratt’s ‘Jurassic’ director adds, “There’s a little bit of the ’80s and ’90s in Pratt, but there is also a bit of the stars from the ’30s and ’40s in there, too. He’s like me. He’s kinda like all of us now. We are a remix generation.”
Pratt does indeed have matinee idol good looks and the physicality and swagger of a young Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford, but that’s not what gives him his unique appeal. For that, it’s perhaps best to go back to his two earlier roles, as Andy Dwyer and Emmett from ‘The Lego Movie.’
Pratt is surely much smarter than either of those dim-wits, but what makes them– and Pratt– irresistible is their complete lack of self-awareness and wide-eyed, child-like exuberance. He may adopt a rougher edge for a role, but as long as he holds on to that earnestness and lack of vanity, viewers should continue to embrace him as his career evolves.
And indeed, we may get a glimpse of his serious side soon, in the western ‘The Magnificent Seven.’ Director Antoine Fuqua hints at that, saying “Since spending time with Chris in prep and filming over these past few months, he has a serious edge about him that I don’t think a lot of people have seen yet.”
Following that will be another dose of depth as Pratt stars with Jennifer Lawrence in the sci fi drama ‘Passengers.’
After that? Well there are rumors that Pratt could be in the running to play Indiana Jones. Not TOO daunting, right?
But don’t count your whips before they crack. Marshall, who is also a producer for this franchise states that Pratt will be considered… among many others.
Even so, for now Pratt is riding high and amassing a devoted following among movie-goers. Fame is fleeting and too often the hot actor du jour can flame out by making poor choices, both professional and personal. Hopefully, he can make it work where so many others have stumbled.
Source: Entertainment Weekly