'The Black Belt': Chris Pratt to Play the Sensei of a Karate Kid

Chris Pratt may have to bust out some of his old “Johnny Karate” skills from his Parks and Recreation days, because he’s been cast as one of the stars of The Black Belt, a new indie comedy in which he will play a karate sensei to a shy teenager. 

The Hollywood Reporter says Pratt will both star in and produce Monarch Media’s upcoming independent film comedy The Black Belt, which “is described as a comedic coming-of-age story about a shy, unassuming teen boy on a quest for an expertise in karate, and the unorthodox uncle who guides him along the way.” Pratt is all set to play the uncle, and he will produce the movie through his Indivisible Productions banner with Jon Schumacher, his producing partner.

Screenwriter Randal Green, who does not appear to have an IMDb page or any film writing experience to speak of, wrote the movie on spec, and Monarch picked it up. The plot of this one sounds like it might have some shades of the 2006 film The Foot Fist Way, Jody Hill’s indie comedy which marked the first starring role for Danny McBride, mixed with last year’s The Art of Self-Defense, Riley Stearns’ dark indie comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg.

Pratt brought a fun, childish comic energy to his “Johnny Karate” persona in Parks and Recreation, but one assumes he’ll age that act up a little for this project. He has gone through a fascinating trajectory as an actor, rising from teen soaps to supporting roles in comedy movies, and then breaking out as a network sitcom star and becoming arguably the biggest movie star in the world from around 2014-2015. His political beliefs have lost him some fans in recent years, but from a pure acting perspective, I’m personally glad to see Pratt back in a lower-key movie that doesn’t have the weight of franchise expectations loaded onto its shoulders. Yes, he’ll still be a big draw for a smaller movie like this, but this could be the type of project that is creatively energizing and maybe even the type of thing that could spark a new interest in a “one for me, one for them” approach to his entire acting career.

So far, Pratt’s producing credits consist of executive producing a 2012 wrestling documentary called On the Mat, and executive producing his next big science fiction movie, The Tomorrow War.

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