Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

3 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

What a world that Scott Pilgrim has to fight through! In this “world,” Scott Pilgrim (along with us, as the audience for the movie “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) is sucked into action sequences that defy gravity, bend physics, and seem almost hilariously and epically vicious. What a trip.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is a movie based on the popular graphic novel of the same name. I guess it could be described as a satire—not only of the graphic novel, but of comic books, video games, and all graphic novels. This movie was brought to the screen by Edgar Wright, whose previous films were “Shaun of the Dead” and Hot Fuzz,” and he specializes in this sort of satire. There are quickly paced editing in non-action sequences, good pacing, great comedic writing, and then there’s the action itself. These action sequences blend comic books, graphic novels, and video games into one and the result is outstanding. Scott Pilgrim and his opponent face each other in exaggerated (but very funny) manner, then they fight—they jump high through the air, freeze when necessary, punch and kick each other even harder than you can without getting seriously injured, and when the opponent is defeated, he explodes into coins (points you would receive when playing a video game for an extra life). Scott has to do the same thing multiple times in this movie.

OK, I’m praising the action a bit too early. Let’s just talk about the plot to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Scott Pilgrim is a 22-year-old Canadian currently dating a Chinese high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Scott plays in a hardcore rock band called Sex Bob-omb and lives with a gay roommate (Kieran Culkin, sort of overdoing it with the gayness, but mostly funny). He has fun with Knives at first, but he starts to get a little tired of it. Enter New York transplant Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). To Scott, this is the coolest girl in the world. She’s a tough babe sporting leather jacket and boots, as well as changing her hair color every week. Ramona tells Scott that they can date if he can fight and defeat her “seven evil exes.” And just like that, the battles begin!

These action sequences will relieve those who were disturbed by the graphic realistic violence in this year’s earlier comic book superhero-satire “Kick-Ass.” In that movie, you knew that there really were people becoming part of a bloodbath. With “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” it’s different because this movie does not take place in reality (I don’t think). It’s exaggerated, fun, hilarious, and amazingly done so that we don’t feel disturbed. Good casting composes of Brandon Routh (the previous Superman) and Chris Evans (the Human Torch) as two of the evil exes.

Oh, I cannot believe I forgot to mention the actor playing Scott Pilgrim. Well, it’s Michael Cera, who has great deadpan comic timing, which he proved so with the TV show “Arrested Development” and with the movies “Superbad” and “Juno.” Recently, he hasn’t been in a good movie since “Juno,” in my opinion. I didn’t like “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “Year One,” or “Youth in Revolt.” The material just wasn’t there for him. Here, Michael Cera feels right at home, oddly enough. His deadpan comic personality fits right in with the video game/comic book scenarios. He can seem like a sissy and he shows that he might be, especially when he has to break up with Knives so he can be with Ramona—“I think we should break up, or whatever…”

I laughed a lot at the non-action scenes, especially the “Seinfeld” satire (complete with music and laugh track). I liked the songs performed by Sex Bob-omb and how the movie kids with the video game elements (the Universal logo even gets the treatment). There are many overly edited bits that are just plain funny. And there is an action sequence that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud with. It’s another one of the evil exes that Scott has to vanquish, in which Mae Whitman (recently co-starring in the TV series “Parenthood”) plays the evil ex (don’t ask). Diehard “Arrested Development” fans (like me) may recognize her as Michael Cera’s “Arrested Development” character George Michael’s girlfriend Ann. Maybe I was just having my own imaginative battle while watching this particular one, but watching George Michael and Ann fight in an overly-exaggerated action sequence just made me laugh out loud.

I have a couple of criticisms—one somewhat obvious and one somewhat personal. The one personal criticism, just to get it out of the way, is that I would have loved to see more of Anna Kendrick as Scott’s younger sister. Anna Kendrick is a go-to actress for any movie, even if it’s just a small part for her. She has that gutsy, witty attitude that I just can’t resist. I think she’s criminally underused here. An obvious criticism—seven evil exes just seems like too much. The movie stretches out a bit too long. Maybe it would’ve been better if Ramona just had five evil exes.

I would probably take “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” over “Kick-Ass.” Over “Sky High?” Well, maybe. This is a crazy and exaggerative but hilarious and awesome movie. I haven’t read the original graphic novel of the same name, so I can’t make comparisons. On the film adaptation, however, it’s a fun ride to take.

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