Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) in a battle of the bands that turns into an actual battle in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Photo Credit: Universal
Review by Paul Steven Brown

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by Edgar Wright
Screenplay by Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall (based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Mally
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Allison Pill, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Jason Schwartzman, & more.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a bit of a geek culture overdose. Also, it’s a specific brand of geek culture that is appreciated in this film. Scott Pilgrim is fun and it’s visually fantastic, but viewers that grew up playing 8-bit and 16-bit home console video games or watched and read enough anime and manga to get various visual cues will take away more from the experience.

I’ve never read the six volume series of Scott Pilgrim comic created by Bryan Lee O’Mally that first debuted in 2004. The first graphic novel received early buzz and I was made aware of them fairly quickly. They looked fun, but I never got around to reading them. As a result, I’m not really sure how faithful the movie is to the comic book series. Still, you shouldn’t have to go into a movie based on other source material pre-read and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stands on its own merits.

This film sports a huge cast with plenty of familiar young faces of actors and actresses that have pretty active on television and on the big screen in the past couple of years. Most notably, of course, is Michael Cera. He’s been constantly getting work since ‘Arrested Development’ went off the air and he really started making waves in the theaters with turns in Juno and Superbad. Still, Cera seems to only get to play Michael Cera, no matter what the character’s name is. He’s been a master of self-deprecating humor since he was a teenager and every character he plays embodies this quality. Scott Pilgrim is no exception.
Scott (Michael Cera) approaches Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at a party in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Photo Credit: Universal
Enjoyment of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will also vary due to your ability to tolerate a sort of man-child idea of romance. Also, while Ramona Flowers is your standard manic pixie dream girl, though less irritating than the usual fare and is frankly quite likable at times. We do get to know her enough that she is more than just a goal for Scott to win at the end of each video game level. While the romantic themes are pretty base and obvious, the real fun in this movie comes from the wacky characters and impressive visuals.

It’s a huge cast and some characters are more broadly drawn than others, but there are few standout performances. Kieran Culkin plays Scott’s wisecracking, gay roommate/advisor. He has a dry wit, but is charismatic and has the uncanny ability to text while sleeping. Allison Pill is hilarious as Kim, the drummer in Scott’s band, Sex Bob-Omb, who just happened to date Scott in high school. She also works as an early indication that young Mr. Pilgrim has left a trail of broken hearts of his own. Jason Schwartzman is wonderfully slimy as the record executive that holds the future of Sex Bob-Omb in his grasps and who sent the League of Evil Exes after Scott in the first place.
Scott (Michael Cera) takes on Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) one of Ramona's evil exes in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Photo Credit: Univeral
There’s a lot of fun due to the great visuals in Scott Pilgrim. Onomatopoeia runs rampant with every phone RINNNNG or punch. Words can physically knock a person over or turn into smoke and choke someone up. It’s not on the level of silly like the ‘60s ‘Batman’ television series, but it’s fun and adds another level of homage to the source material. Also, visual cues from old home console video games are all over the place. When Scott defeats an enemy he is award as he would be in a game. Battles begin with a glowing “VS.” between the opponents. Giant hammers are pulled out of purses, 1UPs are generated, character stats are given, etc. Hell, there’s even a “pee bar”. A lot of this will be lost on the over 50 crowd, and those in their late twenties to early forties, that grew up with a 8 and 16-bit Nintendos and Segas in the house during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, are going to be the ones to really appreciate this type of visual accoutrement.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is fun and different, but that’s about it. It goes well with a bucket of popcorn and a soda. It’s certainly more original than a lot of the mindless explosion-fest that rock the theaters every summer. It’s not as brainy as an Inception, but at least these two movies are offering something different for the 2010 summer movie audiences.

On a side note, there was a preview before Scott Pilgrim vs the World about five people stuck in and elevator and weird stuff starts happening to them. The audience seemed engaged, despite the lack of big names. That is until the words “From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan” graced the screen. The entire room full of people audibly groaned. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

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