You will love Edgar Wright's new film, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World...unless you hate it.
Based upon the graphic novels of Bryan Lee O'Malley, this Michael Cera led comedy is easily Summer 2010's wildest, most inventive and original comedy as one might guess from the film's vibrant, irreverent movie poster and the film's slightly off-kilter marketing campaign.
In the film, Cera plays a slacker (I know. I know. Imagine!) named Scott Pilgrim, who plays bass in a Toronto garage band, shacks up with his gay best friend (Kieran Culkin), plays video games with his high school girlfriend (Ellen Wong) and generally leads a low-key, low energy existence.
Pilgrim's world is upended when he encounters a rollerblading American named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Love just may follow- that is, if Pilgrim can overcome the evil wrath and superpowers of Ramona's seven evil exes.
There's literally no doubting that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World will not be everyone's cup of tea. There are going to be those of you who will dismiss the film almost solely on the basis of fearing yet another Michael Cera mopefest. Sure, Cera does a darn fine job of playing good-hearted losers but it sure would be nice if he'd stretch a bit.
Year One doesn't count.
Fear not. While Scott Pilgrim vs. The World appears to start off like just about every other Michael Cera flick, Edgar Wright is no hack director and he's not about to let Cera rest on his lofty geekdom laurels. Once Scott meets Ramona, the film moves from "Boy meets girl. Boy has to win girl" to one seriously offbeat, kick-ass, visually dizzying and wildly original film sure to please fans of O'Malley's source material, gaming fans and, for that matter, virtually anyone else who enjoys watching Hollywood occasionally come up with something different.
The craziness starts as one of Ramona's exes (Jason Schwartzman) has rallied her other exes into what basically amounts to being a league of seriously vengeful superhero exes and, if Scott is to win Ramona, he must overcome all seven of them.
Wright, who directed the inventive comic hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, hilariously intertwines action sequences with musical interludes accompanied by a wide variety of CGI super-effects that almost bring to mind the offbeat universe of a director like Michel Gondry except that in Wright's world it all actually makes sense.
Before long, Scott Pilgrim is both slacker and superhero, perhaps far more successfully the kind of character that Cera was aiming for in his recent film Youth in Revolt, a film that unfortunately didn't quite ever gel. Here, everything gels and Wright throws virtually everything at the screen in a dizzying array of verbal, visual and full-on sensory humor as Pilgrim takes on Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), an actor (Chris Evans), a bass-playing vegan (Brandon Routh), the hilarious Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman) and on and on until he finally comes face-to-face with Gideon (Schwartzman), the evil ex who started it all.
Unlike Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is infused with a surprising degree of heart and sincerity, as well, perhaps owing to Cera's natural ability to be both hilariously off-kilter and completely and utterly adorable. The same is true for much of the cast, with even supporting players like Pilgrim's bandmates, especially Alison Pill, and a delightful turn by Anna Kendrick as Scott's sister.
The joy of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World lies in Wright's ability to bring to life such a cinematic potpourri of pop culture, humor, heart and character-centered CGI without ever having the story suffer. While the film may very well prove exhausting to some moviegoers, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may be one of the few films of the past decade to really nail the spirit and substance of a youth-themed film while also managing to appeal to fans of gaming and special effects.
Tech credits are solid across the board with ultra kudos for Bill Pope's awesome camera work, Marcus Rowland's consistently inspired production design and the seamless editing of Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss.
While Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may not require a tremendous stretch by Cera, it's a solid career move and proof positive that Cera has a place in the Hollywood landscape.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic