Looking at the way careers work right now, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time where television and movies were considered very separate things, and stars didn’t really jump back and forth at will. If you were a TV star, that was what you did, and you weren’t really considered a potential lead in big giant movies. These days, the line between film and television is nonexistent, and you have people who straddle both world comfortably. Just the other night, I was at the “Frozen” premiere, and Kristen Bell was there just long enough to hear the huge round of applause the audience gave the film when it concluded, and then she had to run make her call time to shoot for her series “House Of Lies” until dawn.
Both Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders have emerged as key parts of ensemble casts in well-liked TV comedies in the last few years, and they’re each in the midst of very different careers in feature films. Well… not that different, I guess, considering they’re each playing roles in the ongoing Marvel movie universe. Smulders had a small but featured role in “The Avengers” as Maria Hill, and we’ll definitely be seeing her again in both “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “The Avengers: Age Of Ultron” at the very least. Pratt just recently wrapped his role as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, the leader of the very rowdy “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” and I think it’s very likely they could end up colliding at some point down the road with Hill and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D.
There’s also “The LEGO Movie,” Warner’s big crazy animated comedy from Chris Miller and Phil Lord, in which Pratt plays the super-silly lead Emmet and Smulders plays Wonder Woman. I guess they’ve also got that in common. And, of course, they both play key supporting roles in “Delivery Man.” Pratt’s got the better role, and he makes the most of it. In our conversation, he talked about his young co-stars and the chemistry he had with them in the very funny scenes that depict his family life. Smulders has the always-thankless role as “the girlfriend,” and while she tries to find some shading in the character, it’s not really there on the page.
The first time I met Pratt was when I went to San Francisco for “The Five-Year Engagement.” There were no other reporters on set with me, and when I showed up at the hotel to check in, I was a little early. I ran into Pratt in the elevators and we started chatting. Normally, people try to do everything through publicists and they can be very awkward chatting outside of a formal situation. Not Pratt, though. He’s one of those guys who seems immediately comfortable with people, and I think that translates onscreen quite clearly. In “Delivery Man,” he elevates everything he plays through the choices he makes. He makes even the most obvious beat feel totally real. While I adore “Parks and Recreation,” I am ready to see much more from that entire cast.
Smulders is having a harder time cracking the world of movies, I feel, and I’m sure at least part of that is that there are so few great roles for women in the first place that until she has a breakthrough moment, she’s not getting those scripts sent to her. She hasn’t had that great film role that opens all the other doors for her. “Delivery Man” still isn’t that film, but she seems to do everything she can to make her time with Vaughn interesting. Smulders is ending her run on “How I Met Your Mother” in just a few months, and it’s time for her to start defining what else she’s going to do.
In both cases, we’ll be watching.
“Delivery Man” opens in theaters everywhere tomorrow.