Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
3 of 5 Stars
Rated PG13/113 min.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has an adoring girlfriend and a steady gig as a singer in The Sex Bob-Ombs, but when he meets the alluring Ramona (Mary Elisabeth Winstead) he willingly throws it all away. Not only does he jeopardize the stability of his band and turn his current girlfriend into an obsessive stalker, but he must literally battle Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends to the death in order to win her hand.
This amalgam of music videos, comic books, anime, manga and video games exists in a world where all of those things are a part of daily life, with thought bubbles, visible sound effects, impromptu martial arts battles and musical numbers popping up at random. Much of it is dazzling and very funny.
The third film by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright plays like a cross between Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Wright’s own TV show, Spaced, which was also an energized, pop-culture fused spoof. The ultra-brisk editing makes large spans of time rush by, with each scene whittled down to only the most necessary elements. Cera and Winstead are wonderful at conveying the angst and detached longing of Gen-Z romantics, though their romance is only slightly deeper and more electric than the neutral passion of the Twilight leads.
Brandon Routh, the star of Superman Returns, is the funniest of Pilgrim’s foes, playing an evil variation on the perfect boyfriend. Chris Evans and Jason Schwartzman also shine as psycho exes. The fight scenes are wild, violent without being bloody and so frenetic and CGI-heavy, they make The Matrix seem leisurely by comparison. I liked the depiction of video game battles and player statistics being a stand-in for how we deal with romantic baggage.
Wright exploits and mocks everything that is popular with teens right now: text messaging, gaming, Internet obsessions, American and Japanese animation, graphic novels, drama-filled high school romances, pop music, identity experimentation—all of it gets thrown into the wash, for better or worse.
Some of this approaches brilliance, but the film is over-directed and at times obnoxious and overbearing. There are scenes so silly (like a musical number with singing she-beasts) that they threaten to derail the whole enterprise. Whether you “get” and appreciate all the pop culture references or not, this is purely a cult movie; a little overkill goes a long way. I’m ready for Wright to make a film that isn’t a spoof or homage.
Yet Wright’s film tries new things, never panders and takes a lot of chances. Adventurous filmgoers should definitely check this out. When it works, it’s kind of radical.