SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (Dir. Edgar Wright, 2010)
This long awaited adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel series opens with a pixelated Universal Studios logo with a symphonic variation on the company's famous theme music. The funny implication is clear - this is a video game cartoon of a movie.
Each character's stats are given in pop-up black boxes, there are subspace doors to alternate dream levels, and when our hero defeats a baddie they explode into a cloud of coins that clank into piles of pocket change on the ground. Our hero, of course, is Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) - an unemployed 23 year old slacker who plays bass in a punk rock band called Sex Bob-Omb.
Cera lives in a shabby apartment in Toronto with his "cool gay roommate" (Kieren Culkin), and he starts off his movie boasting about having a new 17 year old high school girlfriend (Ellen Wong). This budding romance is stunted by the arrival of the girl of Cera's dreams - literally a girl that's been in his dreams - Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers.
The spunky Winstead re-colors her hair every week and works as a delivery person for Amazon so Cera orders something just to be able to ask her out. This is on the side of the woefully oblivious Wong who becomes very upset upon learning of her boyfriend's cheating. This is, the least of Cera's problems as he learns that he has to fight the "League of Evil Exes" for his new girlfriend's hand. That is 7 of Winstead's exes are coming to take him down mostly by way of a big battle of the bands competition. The Evil Exes are (in order of appearance) Satya Bhabha, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, twins Shota Saito and Keita Saito, with Jason Schwartzman bringing the smarm for the cluttered climax.
Each of the exes has some sort of power which are all fairly well explained (I think), but Cera has mighty powers when he needs them that are not explained. I know, I know - it's just a big surreal world they're having fun with - why ask why? In between the mix of Manga and Martial arts mayhem, director Wright impressively makes the most of the crowded cast that also includes Anna Kendrick as Cera's cynical sister, a very Molly Ringwald circa 1985 looking Alison Pill as Sex Bob-Omb's drummer, and Aubrey Plaza (Parks And Recreation) as a bad tempered co-worker of Kendrick who's foul-mouth makes her a running gag of a character.
But then in this film everybody is a running gag of a character.
The super charged movie has an enjoyable soundtrack provided by Beck who wrote Sex Bob-Omb's material, Nigel Godrich, and Broken Music Scene. It all enhances the playing a video game while blaring punk feeling - or at least the watching somebody playing a game while blaring punk feeling.
Though he is still basically the same old Cera, it must be said that he can be detected trying to play some different notes than he has before with this character. Some of his line readings show a lot more effort than in his last few movies (YOUTH IN REVOLT, YEAR ONE, and PAPER HEART for instance) and he has some tangible chemistry with Winstead.
There's a lot going on (split screen effects, Batman style exclamations like "POW!", frenetic cross cutting, etc.) in every frame of SCOTT PILGRIM and it moves fast through it, but it gets way overloaded in its second half. Not being a gamer or graphic novel enthusiast I'm sure that a lot of stuff flew by me that would give nerdgasms to the audience this is aimed at.
Still I laughed a lot and it doesn't seem out of place with the other wonderful work of Edgar Wright (Spaced, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) even if it's not quite up to par with those Simon Pegg vehicles.
As I was writing this I saw that surprisingly SCOTT PILGRIM opened at #5 at the box office, beat out by THE EXPENDABLES, EAT PRAY LOVE, THE OTHER GUYS, and INCEPTION.
I guess the geeks aren't going to inherit the earth after all.