Once upon a time, he was just an average guy. Then one day he woke up with powers beyond his wildest dreams.
Is it Superman? Spiderman?
No. It’s Chris Pratt.
Don’t look confused. You have noticed his new superpowers, haven’t you? He’s scored an Entertainment Weekly cover faster than a speeding bullet. (Or at least, quicker than most TV-to-film phenoms.) He’s attaining a social media stature as powerful as a locomotive. (Or a third-cousin Kardashian, anyway.) And he’s been able to leap to leading man status in a single bound. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the summer superhero flick that features Pratt’s first top-billed role, is blowing away box office competition and scoring rave reviews.
It’s a hit. He is a hit.
All he needed was a new body. It’s no coincidence that Pratt’s rise to a new, stratospheric level of success corresponds to his physical transformation from the doughy every-guy of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” to the slimmed down stud first unveiled in a selfie seen ’round the Web. (No one had expected Andy Dwyer to model white boxer-briefs so well.)
Pratt’s physique has been central to conversations around his new films, “Guardians” and next summer’s anticipated blockbuster “Jurassic World.” And his sudden foxiness has been accompanied by something rare in the Internet age: collective good will. Echoing a popular sentiment, Digital Spy declared him “the male Jennifer Lawrence.” Both enjoy the halo of generally agreed upon likability, because like tripping on your dress at a fancy-schmancy function, hard-fought victories in the battle of the bulge are something everyone can understand. TODAY WE ARE ALL CHRIS PRATT.
“He’s someone guys can actually relate to,” says Stephen Cabral, who runs a popular personal training studio in Boston’s South End. Cabral says clients find more kinship in someone like Pratt than, say, actor Chris Hemsworth, who it was widely reported packed on pounds of muscle for the 2011 hit “Thor.” Unlike Pratt, though, Hemsworth was regarded as fairly dashing and Adonis-like well before his superhero role.
“Pratt’s story seems more inspirational,” says Cabral, comparing the schlub-to-stud narrative to a show like “The Biggest Loser.”
“It reminds me of someone like Brad Pitt in ‘Fight Club,’ ” adds Dustin Martin, co-owner of the Boston franchise of Barry’s Bootcamp, a West Hollywood-based brand known for its celeb clientele. He says that unlike the cartoonish swole sported by Schwarzenegger-esque action heroes of the 1980s, Pratt exemplifies the “long, lean, and athletic” aesthetic that Pitt popularized.
“That takes hard work, but it’s the kind of transformation that isn’t outside the realm of possibility for the average person,” Martin says.
And averageness (or its illusion) is the key to Pratt’s zeitgeist-y, cross-demo popularity, which has eluded similar superhero movie stars. After losing 60 pounds for “The Machinist,” Christian Bale bulked up big time for “Batman Begins,” but a diva reputation preceded him. (Great actor? Sure. Potential beer buddy? Nah.) Ryan Reynolds got ripped for “Green Lantern,” but had a hard time shaking Pretty Boy status.
Pratt found a successful formula. His body changed, his persona stayed the same. He can swing from CGI-rendered spaceships with new, manly biceps, but he’s kept the oafish charm.
He took his workout prep for “Zero Dark Thirty” so seriously because he “wanted to do justice” to US Navy SEALS, his trainer told “Men’s Fitness.” (He’s patriotic, not vain!) He has worked as hard on his career as on his calves. Yet now that he has the fame he craved, he accepts it with the bewildered humility of someone who was gifted an unnecessarily expensive sweater for Christmas. And Pratt’s not showing up to premieres with a rotating series of lacquered starlets at his side. He’s on the couch with “Ellen,” talking about adjusting to parenthood with his wife of five years, actress Anna Faris. Heck, they probably take spin class together.
Over the last year, classes at cycling studio FitHouse in Woburn have gone from essentially all-women to a 50-50 split, says lead instructor Britt Vitello. Most guys are lured by their girlfriends, she says, but they stay for the “social community you don’t find on a gym floor” and the emphasis on combined cardio-strength training that helps them get shredded, not inflated.
“They’re a little quieter [than women] about saying specific names, but the guys clearly have their fitness idols, too,” says Vitello. “I see which magazine covers they pick up.”
From the fitness stories shared inside, they could have been comic books.
Follow Scott Kearnan @thewritestuffsk.