Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010, dir. Edgar Wright)
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Mark Webber, Alison Pill, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzmann, Brandon Routh, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Mae Whitman
This is the official film of the Nintendo Generation, from the opening Universal logo to the final battle, the film is painted with pixelated brush strokes of late 80s video game fandom. Its also the closest I’ve seen director Edgar Wright come to recreating the style of humor found in his wonderful British series Spaced. These are the same kinds of people that populated that television show, just born a couple decades later. They have the same idiosyncratic obsessions and quirks just colored in an 8-bit aesthetic. This also marks a major departure for Michael Cera who has made a career on playing the lovable loser. The Scott Pilgrim character is a real asshole, especially to the girls in his life, and Cera does a good job of shifting his style of acting to fit Pilgrim. Simply put, this is the best date movie/action flick of the year.
The story takes us to the snowy streets of Toronto where Scott plays bass in Sex Bob-Omb and has upset fellow bandmates by dating the 17 year old Knives Chow. His dalliance with Chow is usurped when the mysterious Ramona Flowers crosses his path. Once they start a relationship its quickly revealed that Ramona’s seven exs have formed a villainous league who are intent on destroying anyone who dares to date her next. In this world you don’t need to be a black belt to fight like a character out of Mortal Kombat, and no one questions when Scott drops his bass and flies into the air to clash with ex after ex. This is a world where the line between game console and reality are blurred.
The humor here is so wonderful, its geeky and silly and the film never takes it self too seriously. Its the kind of thing you expect from Edgar Wright. Characters talk in a hyper real way, popping in and out frame when ever they are needed. The standout in the cast for me was Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate Wallace. Wallace is devoid of stereotype and is simply a perfect compliment to Scott’s often immature relations with the female of the species. The rest of the cast hits every note they needed to. None of the characters are all that fleshed out, by the conceit of the film is that they don’t need to be. This is a live action video game so characters are more types rather than three dimensional. Despite that lack of character dimensionality, the film does an excellent job of world building. While the far edges are kept blurred, the world of this fictional Toronto feels like it is bursting with life with so many characters passing through the frame.
It’s a shame the film didn’t have a bigger opening and appears to be quickly fading from theaters. It is Wright’s highest opening film though, almost twice as much as Hot Fuzz. The thing about Scott Pilgrim is that it is not ever going to appeal to a mass audience. This is a film made squarely for people who were kids when the Nintendo was released and were obsessed with it. It doesn’t have the mass guy appeal of The Expendables or the mass gal appeal of Eat Pray Love. Though, I’m willing to bet it is much much better than either of those films.