Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Year 2008

Michael Cera as  Scott Pilgrim
Mary Elizabeth Winstead   as Ramona Flowers
Ellen Wong as Knives Chau
Kieran Culkin as   Wallace Wells
Alison Pill as   Kim Pine
Brie Larson as   Envy Adams
Jason Schwartzman as   Gideon Graves
Clifton Collins, Jr. as   Vegan Policeman
Director - Edgar Wright
Screenwriters - Michael Bacall
  - Edgar Wright  
Comic Book Author - Bryan Lee O'Malley  

In this movie, no one takes on the world, at least, not literally. Oh, there's a pixelated globe that is part of the Universal Pictures logo when the movie starts. But no one kicks it or spits at it or does anything threatening to it, least of all Scott Pilgrim. You'd think with a title like Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World it might involve a setting larger than downtown Toronto, Canada. But, you'd have another think coming.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. About a Dozen Video Game Characters would be a more accurate title. Just so you know that I'm making fun of the title because it fits the spirit of the movie. In fact, it's a good choice for a title let's you know at the onset that you're in for a goofy, special effects drenched, excursion into a Timothy Leary sort of world. (Trip? Timothy Leary? Nevermind.)

The protagonist, slacker and chinless geek Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is apparently hell with the ladies. He's dated a number of women, some of them quite desirable, despite the fact that he has no job, no charisma, no sense of humor, limited intelligence, and the psysique of a marionette. Even so, the fact that Scott Pilgrim is somehow a chick magnet is one of the more believable aspects of the movie. At least, when it comes to Scott being a love god, there's nothing supernatural about things.

But Scott's life isn't about the natural. It about the fact that he's currently dating a seventeen year old girl named Knives Chau (Wong) while as he is smitten by someone closer to his age of twenty-two. This older girl, Ramona Flowers (Winstead), is a recent arrival in Toronto and the object of everyone in Toronto's envy. She's revered and thereby unintentionally intimidating to the point that she's nearly isolated. It's the only way to explain how Scott has a chance with her.

Ramona is an delivery girl, whatever that is, so I guess being the object of envy doesn't take a lot in Toronto. To be fair, her legend stems from the fact that she's American and has green highlights in her hair. Again, this is Toronto.

Since she appeared to Scott in a dream before he actually met her in the flesh, he figures that their hooking up is Kismet. Little does Scott know that, in order to date Ramona, he must defeat Ramona's seven evil exes. The exes are her past relationships. This doesn't narrow down the qualifications to being an ex. Understanding why someone is Ramona's ex is part of the fun. But there are seven of them in total and Scott must defeat them all in a manner similar to defeating boss lords in a video game.

Having this be the crux of a movie could be a major failure in the hands of untalented people. But, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is a major success. How talented are the writers and directors? I don't like watching Michael Cera in a movie. The sight of him gives me pause and his dumb-bunny schtick makes me cringe. But thanks to wonderfully composed special effects, crisp editing, interesting settings (even in Toronto in winter), entertaining inserts, and brilliant one liners, I could take Michael Cera for the whole movie.

The special effects? The fights with the exes straight out of video games complete with power-ups and coin drops. Dreams are in washed out colors, so you know that they're dreams. And the special effects aren't limited to these two types of visual episodes. There are lots of little touches. As an example, in one scene Ramona roller blades away in the snow. As she moves, the snow melts beneath her.

Editing? There are lots of jump cuts to get to the next scene. There are point of view changes on the fly. It could give you motion sickness, but it's not dull.

The settings aren't always clever, but sometimes they are. Take the second battle of the exes. Unlike most of the boss battles that take place in flashy and unique bars, this one takes place on and outdoor movie set.

I mentioned "entertaining inserts" earlier. These are little blurbs and bubbles that appear on-screen to identify a character or a plot point and usually contain a chuckle, or even two, in them. They're common early in the movie but then forgotten later on. That's too bad because it's these little extras that make a movie a lot more fun to watch. When these little touches go away, the movie becomes repetitive.

One liners? HereS's a paraphrase, "I used to be bi-curious. Now I'm bi-furious." That's the type of thing you can expect. After suffering a romantic heart-break, Scott quips, "You kicked my heart in the a**." It's not exactly subtle but it's funny. And these sorts of lines keep coming at you. You've got to like a movie where the password to get by the guards is, "Whatever."

Ancillary characters are identfiable. Wallace (Culkin), the mandatory gay character for all "happenin' flicks" has some good lines. Scott's sister, who is forever working in a coffee shop, is also hard to confuse with anyone else. The nearly incredibly cute Alison Pill as band drummer Kim Pine steals more than a couple of scenes. Even Clifton Collins, Jr. as a vegan policeman with only two lines is notable (but you'd expect that from Clifton Collins, Jr.).

Another plus for me is the music. It's sort of punk, but not quite. There are songs performed that sound as if they may have been written by The Doors, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Evanescence, and T. Rex. (Oh wait, there really is a T. Rex song in the movie!)

One down side to this movie is the mandatory gay character. Its not that it's a bad character. It's just that...why gay? Why not be a straight guy? I dunno except maybe it's a "now" thing. Oh, it isn't offensive, just out of place. Another thing that doesn't ring true is that the supposedly drop dead gorgeous girls really aren't. They're sort of cute, but they're not beauty queens. (Am I the only one who thinks Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fish eyed?) The fresh ideas get dropped while they're still fresh (like the inserts) and some stale ideas get overused (like bars as fight arenas and Scott's inability to get a clue). Michael Cera is not engaging enough to be the star of a movie like this. Oh, he's not bad, but he's not interesting either.

I know that Michael Cera is popular. I don't understand why. I know that Topher Grace is popular, too. Outside of "That 70s Show", he gets old quick. To me, they're part of the same bland, one press, mold. Watching them act is like going into the ice cream novelties section of a grocery store (all working actors) and searching out unflavored Greek yogurt instead.

Aside from the actors, Edgar Wright is a very good director. The fact that he kept so many incredible scenes from becoming unwatchably absurd is a testament to his pacing. That he kept so many cast characters from becoming blurred is a testment to his directorial skills.

No nudity, but there is some profanity and blasphemy. Someone who works with Scott's sister at the coffee shop has a foul mouth when it comes to her opinion of Scott. When she utters profanity, the word turns into a buzzing sound and a black bar covers her lips. Chick flick potential is about average. In the movie, there are a couple of women with backbones and some of the sharpest lines are uttered by women.

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