British director Edgar Wright deserves an award for knocking it out of the park with all three of his released-in-America films. Most directors can’t pull off three in a row, let alone the first three in a row. (Both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.)
Wright’s latest film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is his first big-budget American-backed film. Scott Pilgrim was co-adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s cult favorite comic book by Wright himself (he also co-wrote both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz).
Arrested Development and Superbad star Michael Cera plays the unlikely, scrawny Canadian anti-hero Scott Pilgrim. On a self-esteemless rebound from a bad break-up, 22-year-old Scott dates the cutest most naïve girl that will pay attention to him – 17-year-old Chinese girl Knives Chau (newcomer Ellen Wong). While Scott uses their relationship to prove to his friends that he is capable of being in one again, Knives falls head over heels for Scott – he is five years older than she, he “slaps the bass” in a cool rising band and has taught her how to be cool and separate yourself from the crowd. He has shown her a world that she never knew existed. But their “relationship” is doomed to end quicker than it started – not only because of their differing views on the current situation, but because Scott is about to meet the literal “girl of his dreams,” Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Grindhouse’s Death Proof and Live Free or Die
Little is known about Ramona Flowers. She is the new mysterious American girl in Toronto. While guys are attracted to her, the tough-girl vibe she gives off scares them away. But because Scott has seen her in his dreams, he is determined and destined to win her over – and after a date sequence whose tone resembles that of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he does! With a “new new” girlfriend, only two obstacles stand in Scott’s way of “happily ever after” – first, Scott must break up with Knives, and second, Scott must defeat Ramona’s “Seven Evil Exes.”
You see, Ramona left her comfort zone of New York City for chilly Toronto to get a fresh start on life. She is not proud of the one she lived before and wants to escape the people who reinforced said lifestyle. To both her and Scott’s surprise, all of Ramona’s exes have joined forces and created the “League of Evil Exes.” Their mission is to destroy the romantic future of Ramona by eliminating any man she falls for. With Scott as their target, he must battle and defeat all seven Evil Exes – as well as his own unconfident subconscious – to keep Ramona by his side.
As you can tell from any trailer or television spot, Scott Pilgrim is highly stylized. The movie plays off like an ‘80s 8-bit video game, complete with point and coin rewards for completing difficult tasks. But while it certainly helps to be previously familiar with old video games, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does not limit its audience with its visual style.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World works on many different levels. At times the emphasis is placed on the video game characteristics; other times it is placed on the comedy; and other times on the relationships. In the end it is a perfectly well balanced film fit for any audience.
It is not necessary to have A.D.D. to enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but it sure wouldn’t hurt. The editing, pacing and dialogue is fast. If you thought the mindless banter back and forth between the Gilmore Girls was fast, you haven’t seen anything yet. But just like the stylized visuals, everything has its reason and timing. It may first come across as annoying, but quickly becomes second nature as you wrap yourself in the story and characters.
When you first saw the trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, you probably had the same thought as I did: ‘Michael Cera playing himself in another movie? Come on.’ Before seeing Scott Pilgrim, my biggest fear was the casting – mostly because we are all tired of seeing the same old Michael Cera. To my surprise, as I watched the film, it never once occurred to me that I was watching Michael Cera. Scott Pilgrim is easily his best performance to date.
The casting for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is perfect. Mary Elizabeth Winstead not only plays the girl of Scott Pilgrim’s dreams, but the girl of yours too. You will understand exactly why the “League of Evil Exes” formed and why Scott is willing to risk all to keep her. She is the Princess to Scott Pilgrim’s Mario – and she will be yours too.
The side characters are just as fleshed-out and real as the central ones. Playing bandmates in Scott’s punk band Sex Bob Omb are Mark Webber (Broken Flowers), Alison Pill (Milk) and Johnny Simmons (Hotel for Dogs). Scott’s gay best friend and roommate is played by Kieran Culkin (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys). Playing a few of the Evil Exes are Chris Evans (The Losers and soon-to-be Captain America), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Mae Whitman (Cera’s girlfriend “Anne McNo-Face” on Arrested Development) and Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited). Each actor was perfectly cast for the role.
Just as Sin City has and Kick-Ass will change the way that comic book movies are brought to film, so will Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Expect to see many rip-off when it comes to comics and video games brought to the big screen.
Even if you feel like you may not be part of the demographic that will enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, you definitely owe it to yourself to give it a shot. It is truly unlike anything you have ever seen and deserves to be counted as one of the year’s best.
Photo credit: Universal Studios