Overnight sensation is 15 years in the making

Tom Long
Detroit News

Now that the Chris Pratt hysteria of a few weeks back has somewhat died down, let’s try to take an objective look at things.

First off, many people will still likely be wondering — Chris who?

Pratt. He voiced the lead character in “The LEGO Movie” earlier this year. It earned nearly $258 million at the domestic box office. Now he’s the star of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which will fly past the $230 million mark this weekend and may well end up the biggest moneymaker of the summer.

Suddenly Pratt was everywhere — magazine covers, talk shows, newspaper articles. One headline read “Zero to hero.”

Hardly. “Zero to hero” would be more like Jessica Chastain, the flame-haired, absurdly talented actress who came out of nowhere in 2011 with seven films — “The Help,” “Take Shelter,” “The Tree of Life,” “Wilde Salome,” “Coriolanus,” “The Debt” and “Texas Killing Fields” — earning an Oscar nomination and at one point having two films simultaneously in the top five.

Pratt, on the other hand, has been working steadily in Hollywood since 2002, when he popped up playing a jock on the WB show “Everwood.” After that he moved to “The O.C.” and for the past five years he’s become a strong critical favorite playing the bumbling-but-adorable Andy Dwyer on “Parks and Recreation.”

Now 35, Pratt also showed up in some fairly prestigious movies along the way, notably “Moneyball,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and last year’s “Her,” all Oscar contenders. He also married one of the funniest women on earth, the rightfully esteemed comic actress Anna Faris.

So the guy was hardly a “zero.” He was a working, well-respected actor.

Now, about the “hero” part. Unfortunately, while he’s having one whale of a good year, Chris Pratt is not the savior of Hollywood.

True, “Guardians” broke out huge, earning $94 million its opening weekend of Aug. 1. Prognosticators were quickly predicting it would be the first film of the year to break $300 million domestically. But it’s slowed down appreciably and now looks like it will end up in the $280 million range. A huge hit, no doubt, but not in a league with last year’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Iron Man 3” or “Frozen,” all of which earned more than $400 million.

Yes, Pratt and “Guardians” kept the summer box office from being a complete disaster; the year-to-date box office comparison is down about 5 percent, but things were looking much worse a month ago. Still, he’s not some sudden phenomenon.

Instead think of Pratt as a steady minor league player who gets called up to the majors and begins knocking balls out of the park. He was never a zero, and if anything he’s a working-class hero, the kind of guy who just kept plugging away.