SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD

Dir. Edgar Wright. USA. 2010.


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Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) is Scott Pilgrim, an unemployed 22-year-old who plays bass guitar in a rock band known as the Sex Bob-omb in Edgar Wright's zany comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Scott is a scrawny kid who looks and acts like sixteen, yet he is a kung fu master with super powers who seems unusually adept at breaking the hearts of good looking women. While not to be confused with a timeless love story, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World delivers high energy entertainment, connecting with its audience through smart dialogue, heaping spoonfuls of fantasy, and tons of technical wizardry that is gape-worthy. Adapted from a series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley and set in the mysterious city of Toronto, Canada, the film may be geared to adolescents, but has appeal for anyone who ever had to fight for the thing/person they most desired. 

While it does have a story, it is relatively unimportant compared to the plethora of sight gags, pop culture references, great rock music, CG, and wild combinations of comic book and video game camera tricks. Of course, there is no separation between fantasy and reality because the characters exist simultaneously in both worlds. As the film opens, Scott has a good thing going with 17-year old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a student at a Catholic high school, but is teased about his relationship by his gay roommate, Wally (Kieran Culkin), his sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick) and the other band members: Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), Young Neil (Johnny Simmons), and stoic-faced drummer Kim Pine (Alsion Pill) who Scott dumped some time ago. 

Scott's relationship with Knives pulls up to a stop sign when he sees an attractive girl with flaming pink hair at the library. Introduced later at a party, he finds out that she is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an attractive ex-New Yorker whose straight talk and down to earth manner belies her exaggerated appearance. Scott is ready to do almost anything to win her affections but to accomplish that, he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends who do not take kindly to his romantic quest. One after another, Scott must take on the “X's” while the viewer must confront the “O's” as in “O no! not another one.” 

Ramona's ex-boyfriends include dangerous-looking Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) with whom she had a one week friendship in the seventh grade, beefed-up movie star Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), Todd Ingram, a loud-mouthed vegan (Brandon Routh) who looks at “half and half” as his mortal enemy, and Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), a sleazy music producer with a cynical smile painted on his face. All of these ex-es engage Scott in comic book type battle royals with “Pow!” and “Krak!” along with "Yeah Yeah Yeah" seen on the screen as visual accompaniment to the high flying combatants. With each victory, Scott gets bonus points and advances to the next level while defeated opponents explode in a downpour of coins. 

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has hyper-energy to spare and surprisingly more humanity and fewer stereotypes than the typical Hollywood romantic comedy. Though the fighting trickery becomes repetitious and the smartass barbs become overly self-conscious, the film successfully mirrors the struggle of adolescents to find themselves and, yes, even confront themselves before they discover their place in the world. Although personally, I hoped that Scott would end up with a different girl, the film lets us know unequivocally that we do not get what we want in life unless we are willing to fight for it. Michael Cera is an acquired taste and has his detractors, but to me he has an honest, soulful quality that makes you root for him and believe him even when he haltingly says “whatever”. 

Is all the cartoonish violence a bit too much?  Is the film too glitzy? Does it have too much style and too little substance? Are we beginning to see people in life merely as characters in a video game? I don't think so, but even if the answer to those questions is yes, this wacky little film is not designed to be taken seriously any more than you would consider Snow White as a representation of the house-bound submissive female, or Tarzan, a white child raised by Mangani great apes, as a completely well-adjusted adult without any discernible flaws.

 
GRADE: A-


Howard Schumann


 
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