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Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

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Can a movie not based on a video game still count as a video game movie?

The first time I had the opportunity to bask in the glory of epic epicness that is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, I may have attempted to take notes, but in that respect failed miserably. So awash in the greatness was I that there was no way I was going to be able to soak in what was being splashed upon my retinas with such aplomb that I gave up before even trying. To look away for even a second is to deny yourself such visual splendor that a second viewing will be the only way you can reward yourself. Lucky for me, I have reaped said reward.

Edgar Wright is nothing new to me. While most film audiences’ first Wright experience was partaking of a little slice of fried gold called Shaun of the Dead, I had already devoured his two series of a little something called Spaced. I’m not sure there’s any director working today aside from Quentin Tarantino who is so in tune with pop culture that they make it look like a walk on the beach compared to some directors who think they have their finger on the pulse of what’s cool and hip. It’s no wonder that Wright was brought onto Grindhouse to contribute his faux trailer, Don’t. While I support Wright’s second helping, Hot Fuzz, to be a better film than Shaun, I suppose it all comes down to taste.

Some have recently felt that Michael Cera had run his course and was beginning to grate on audiences with the same ol’ shtick. As a fan of both Cera and the Oni graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, I patiently waited to find out what he could bring to the character of Scott Pilgrim. Thankfully, he brings his sense of awkwardness and innocence while taking charge of the scene and showing that even he can stand up to the hilariously evil snarkiness of Jason Schwartzman playing Gideon Gordon Graves, one of Ramona Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, another Grindhouse participant) evil ex-boyfriends, err… exes.

Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is dating a high schooler named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). They almost held hands once but then she got really embarrassed. They go out shopping together and play Ninja Ninja Revolution at the arcade and she even thinks his band Sex Bob-Omb rocks. Scott’s band is a group of friends from high school made up of himself on bass, lead singer Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), and Scott’s own ex, Kim Pine (Alison Pill) on drums. They also have a band practice stand-in who knows all of Scott’s parts named Young Neill (Johnny Simmons).

While Scott thinks everything is fine and dandy with dating a 17-year-old Chinese Catholic schoolgirl with the uniform and everything, all that changes after dreaming of another girl with short bright purple hair who we find out is named Ramona Flowers (Winstead), delivers for Amazon.ca, and will only agree to hang out with Scott if he signs for his damn package. Scott finds out that Ramona is real when he spies her at one of Julie Powers’ (Aubrey Plaza) parties where Julie forbids Scott from dating Ramona and everyone else tries to warn Scott about her baggage which he gleefully ignores while proceeding to stalk her throughout the party until she leaves.

Once Scott signs for his package and has a lame first date with Ramona, Stills informs the band that they have all been accepted into the TIBB (Toronto International Battle of the Bands). Now the cool kids will finally be wearing Sex Bob-Omb shirts too and not just Knives. At said TIBB the party gets crashed by Ramona’s first “Evil Ex-Boyfriend,” Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha). While Scott may have skimmed Patel’s email about the League of Evil Exes he has come to fight. Yes, Scott must defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes before the two of them can officially be together. Now that’s baggage.

While it may seem like my three paragraphs of synopsis is stuffed to the gills with plot, I’ve barely scratched the surface and to say any more would only disservice the film and ruin the hilarious surprises. Scott Pilgrim is pure experience and if you thought you’ve seen over-stylized representations of comic books or graphic novels before, nothing can prepare you for this. However, beware the Vegan Police and Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) and his stunt team. Note to Wright: we’ve seen what you can do with action spoofs, but would you be so kind as to direct a string of Lucas Lee films, pretty please?!

What director Edgar Wright and cowriter Michael Bacall have managed to pull out of their hat is a film that’s totally enraptured by itself. It is completely self-aware and almost comes across as a parody of something but as it’s based on original material it just goes to show what some real imagination in Hollywood can bring. If you think Nigel Godrich’s recomposition of the Universal Pictures theme is brilliant, just wait till you see what Wright comes up with to slam dunk the joke later. It also seems in Wright’s best interest that he uses the comic form mostly for framing and editing while visually sticking to the video game aspects for storytelling purposes.

First June brought us Toy Story 3, then July gave us Inception, and now August gets its offering of total coolness overload with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. While May’s Iron Man 2 can’t be left without notice, and some may find it a dreadful summer when there’s been a total of four exceptional films, these sure make up for the rest of the lot if you ask me.

Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.