Hmmmm. How to describe Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? The usual genre descriptions don’t seem to do this one justice. I guess you could call it “boy meets girl” or maybe yet another semi-homoerotic Michael Cera “coming of age teen comedy,” but that barely scratches the surface of this utterly unique, high concept, video gamer’s delight, romantic teen comedy action dance film. I guess I better just start from the beginning and see if I can sum it up – in less than 1,200 words.
Written and directed by 36-year-old Brit Edgar Wright, whose other notable contribution to unusual and amusing cinema was the hilarious Simon Pegg zombie shoot ’em up, Shaun of the Dead (2004), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World sets up immediately as not just another apathetic slacker teen romp. After the Universal logo is presented in fuzzy digital to the computerized accompaniment of what appears to be the theme from either Pac Man or Ms. Pac Man (I always get those themes confused), a graphic appears on the screen reading: Not so long ago…In the mysterious land…of Toronto, Canada…Scott Pilgrim was dating a high schooler.
And we’re off!
We first meet our hero, ‘Scott Pilgrim’ (Michael Cera), being grilled in his grungy kitchen by his band mates for dating a “high schooler.” His drummer, a monotone ex-girlfriend nag named ‘Kim Pine’ (Alison Pill) repeatedly says to him “Scott, if your life had a face I would punch it.” But not much phases ‘Scott Pilgrim,’ as we learn by a graphic on the screen next to his smirking face that reads “SCOTT PILGRIM: 22 YEARS OLD, RATING: AWESOME,” giving us a helpful hint that we are embarking on what appears to be a video game character’s journey. This graphic intrusion also accompanies most sound effects (i.e. doorbells, light switches, punches to the face, etc.), and you know what? It just keeps getting funnier and funnier for some reason.
The “high schooler” in question has one of the best movie names since the 1964 ‘James Bond’ classic Goldfinger’s ‘Oddjob.’ Her name is ‘Knives Chau’ (Ellen Wong), and she is a bright-eyed, enthusiastically super smitten 17-year-old girl who worships ‘Scott’ and his lame band. But, unfortunately for ‘Knives Chau,’ ‘Scott’ still pines for the one that got away, ‘Envy Adams’ (Brie Larson) super hot lead singer of the band ‘Clash at Demon Head.’
That is until he meets ‘Ramona Flowers.’ At first, all bets are off – she is just way out of drippy ‘Scott’s’ league – she’s gorgeous and has really cool magenta colored hair and roller blades all around town – but then his innocent and ultra non-threatening Michael Cera charm kicks in and she resigns to dating the boob. Cue Lars Beckerman graphic: ‘Be careful what you wish for!’
You see, ‘Ramona Flowers’ has seven, count ’em SEVEN, evil ex-boyfriends and in the video game logic of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, ‘Scott’ now has to duel each of them separately and without warning. Although, to be fair, the first one did send him an email.
KPOK! SMAK!!! WHUMP!!!! REVERSAL!!!!
And after each smack down gold coins drop to the floor – bonus!
Super chill ‘Ramona’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) says to poor ‘Scott’ after he has suffered yet another thrashing at the hands (and feet) of one of her ex-beaus “Look, Scott. I don’t have all the answers, ok? I’d just like to live in the moment if I can.” To which ‘Scott Pilgrim’ responds feebly “I’d just like to live.” And he still has four more ex’s to grapple with! Holy shiznit.
As ‘Scott’s’ gay roommate (Kieran Culkin) tells him after duel #2, “If you want something bad you have to fight for it. Step up your game, Scott.”
Cera is unrivaled in this new millennial archetype. He takes ‘non-threatening male’ to staggering new heights, making Dustin Hoffman and Jude Law look like Lee Marvin and Warren Oates. And Winstead and the rest of the cast are also up to the assignment, intelligence and smarm running amok.
But the real star of this show is director Wright. I found last year’s (500) Days of Summer to be totally charming and fresh, but then along comes Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and I’m scrambling for a new vocabulary to sum it up. Super turbo fresh? Crazy freaky robo fresh????
Ok, I’m going with that.