Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I’m not even sure how to start this review, there are so many things I liked about this movie. From the opening Universal globe on screen to the “Continue?” countdown at the end, this film made me smile. As a warning, however, this film is generation specific (maybe even gender specific), so as a member of the generation and gender I believe this film was targeted towards I can see how other people may not find it as hilarious or entertaining or poignant as maybe I did, but to people of my ilk – and I believe there are many, I’m really not that unique – I think this will be one of the most entertaining 112 minutes they will have spent in a theater in a long time (remember, INCEPTION was 2 and a half hours). Edgar Wright has used the graphic novels of Bryan Lee O’Malley to create a fresh and original precept for studying young adult relationships in turning Toronto, Canada into a video game universe where Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera – great again) plays a sort of Super Mario trying to get through the levels of a prospective girlfriend’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) evil exes through 7 battles to the death (and by death I mean they burst into coins at their demise). The dialogue is hip, fresh and funny (at times it was almost like Diablo Cody wrote a JUNO sequel), the fight scenes were elaborate and not so boring as to only involve hand to hand combat, and the sounds and visuals come alive in ways many 3D movies try to, but Wright was able to do in the old-fashioned 2D manner by just being smarter than those 3D directors (STEP UP 3D, I’m looking at you). But all the while, through my enjoyment of all these others aspects, I mostly just laughed and smiled and rooted for this hip bass-playing slacker as he worked his way through his new girlfriend’s baggage, and maybe even dealt with some of his own.
We start our story with Scott Pilgrim, age 22, in a mourning period after losing an old girlfriend, Envy (Brie Larson), who became a huge music success and left him for bigger, better things. In his mourning he starts dating a 17 year old, Knives (Ellen Wong – and for the record, fellas, never date a girl named “Knives”). Pilgrim plays bass for a local Toronto band trying to make it big, Sex Bob-omb, and Knives is their biggest fan. But then he meets Ramona Flowers (Winstead), first in a dream and then real life, and despite his awkwardness – or maybe because of it – they begin dating. It’s then that Scott finds out that he must face off against Ramona’s evil exes, the back stories for these relationships are told in slow monologues with accompanying comic strips, and his first battle with Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) is a hilarious, out-of-left-field, fight/dance sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the insane battles he will take part in throughout the flick. For advice and hip commentary, Pilgrim has his roommate and best friend Wallace (Kieran Culkin doing great comic work throughout) and his sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick), while his band mates are just tired of him bringing girls around to their practices. The exes Scott must face are diverse in talents and gender, pitting him against Brandon Routh as a Vegan with special powers (and a great, unexpected cameo dealing with vegans), Chris Evans as a conceited action hero actor/skateboarder, a pair of twins, a psycho girl, and the creator of The League of Evil Exes – Jason Schwartzman.
The battles are fast and fun, with weapons as random as swords, a mallet, a bass guitar and coffee, and the emotions behind all of it are real, which grounds a story so fantastical it has Michael Cera kung-fu fighting Jason Schwartzman. How many writers can do that? Cera is great, playing everything from sad sack to confident crusader, and delivering all of his lines in the best way to maximize their comedic effect. Kieran Culkin is funny as the gay best friend who steals a great deal many scenes. The exes when they come on all have their unique elements which get laughs at every turn – particularly Evans and Routh (actual super-hero’s in other movies who fight Michael Cera in this universe) – while other bit parts like Aubrey Plaza as Julie get their own comedy bits and nail them. Winstead is mostly mysterious and aloof, but we all love that girl, and I could see myself fighting to the death for her. But this flick is all about Scott Pilgrim, and watching him fight through his respective levels, but also grow through them as well. It is an original concept populated with great characters we like and believe in…even as they burst into coins after a battle.