Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Alfie Rackley, Ellen Wong, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons
Screenplay by Edgar Wright, Michael Bacall based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley
The first best thing about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is that Michael Cera broke out of the Superbad mode, but still was cool enough to be likable. That sensitive geek think was beginning to be a chain around the neck of the poor dude. To describe his character in this movie is pert near impossible, because that would be trying to encompass the events of the film. Scott Pilgrim, you see, is whatever each scene requires him to be. Starting off as a 22-year-old guy in a band who is dating a teenager (Wong), he becomes something different by the time he dreams of Ramona (Winstead). What this is presents itself in such an ungainly way, I will not attempt to do more than describe what Scott Pilgrim is actually up against. The rest of which will be presented in a manner of what works and what doesn’t.
The vs. of the movie are a series of the “evil exes” that Ramona went out with in her past. They are all inexplicably evil with unknowable powers. This is as entertaining without having to be explained. It plays like a video game, replete with graphics and a massive coin count at the end. Brandon Routh, Chris Evans and, most satisfying, Jason Schwartzman make appearances on the list, and they do credit to their careers with absolutely nonsensical parts. Schwartzman should be able to make a career out of playing the bad guy. He does smarmy evil about as well as anyone this side of Jeremy Irons.
So on to what works:
- Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace: I call to mind his sexuality only because the movie hits several high
points from it. His character is probably the most developed of the cast, especially with his ability to text Scott’s sister Stacy (Kendrick) at any time, even in his sleep. Culkin shows a grace and ease that perfectly fits with the movie’s style, such as it is. I can’t wait to see what he does (especially with Wright) in the future.
- The living accommodations: Wallace’s apartment is delightfully barren. This is the life of someone who is just out of High School with no real job and nothing but hope to live on. A basement studio with a bed, an old computer, a kitchen, a bathroom and not much more. Scott shares the bed with Wallace, and sometimes Wallace’s friends. This place is it’s own character.
- The Band: Stephen Stills (Webber), known as “The Talent” for no discernible reason other than he sings. The drummer, Envy (Larson) who is brooding and loathsome since Scott broke up with her…in High School. “Young” Neil (Simmons), the band’s biggest fan, and replacement bass player. The band’s name: Sex-Bob-omb. Only someone just out of their teens could think that inventive.
- The fights: Out of nowhere, 30 minutes into the film, during one of Sex-Bob-omb’s sets jumps Satya Bhabhaas Matthew Patel, literally out of the high wall of the second floor, behind where Scott’s friends are sitting. My first reaction might have been to call B.S. on another day, but Wright’s direction was so sensibly quirky to this point, I decided to give it a
willing suspension of disbelief. Through that fight, and each that followed, there was given a strangely cogent sense of logic. Funny, effective, and good choreography.
- Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Gordon Graves. Schwartzman has the uncanny ability to make you want to punch him and hug him, almost simultaneously. As effective as he was in The Fantastic Mr. Fox without showing his face, there are not many actors that can pull off this goof ball sort of menace the way he can.
- Cera: Hitherto known as the awkward Lothario, thank God he moved out of that mold and became Scott Pilgrim. Sure, Pilgrim has some of the awkwardness, but he actually develops into something else through the span of the story. Perhaps he has a future, if he can continue developing.
- Edgar Wright: Perhaps the best director in comedy, Wright helmed my favorite comedy since the first 3/4 of Stripes with Shaun of the Dead. His style is complete rationality in the face of insane events. This is the first time I have seen him in a project not involving Simon Pegg, and he does just fine. His palate is indescribable, as there is no telling what path he might take next. I look forward to all of his future projects.
Okay, so what doesn’t work?
- The ending: Why follow the convention of Knives Chau giving up Scott for Ramona, especially after the last fight showed how well they were matched? Ultimately, this was the choice of O’Malley, who gave Wright and Bacall his notes on the last book while they were making the film, thus, changing its original ending.
- Ramona’s constantly evolving hair color: In the movie, they always ascribe the changing of hair color as proof that someone is a cool rebel. It’s an old cliché, just about the same way tattoos are.
So, one can conclude, from this review, the film is worth watching. It definitely is, with one caveat: tough guys (like my brothers, Jim, as they call themselves) and women over 60 will probably not find this entertaining in the slightest. For the rest, just throw away any thoughts on mastering the content, sit back and enjoy the ride.
(**** out of *****)