Andy Bockelman: ‘Scott Pilgrim’ — Dating, growing up, defeating evil, whatever
September 3, 2010
Movie at a glance
“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” 3 out of 4 stars; 112 minutes; Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans and Jason Schwartzman.
Just when you thought that the shy, awkward young man archetype has been played out, a hero steps forward and pulls a flaming sword from another dimension from deep within his chest.
If that description sounds weird, just wait: It's one of many surreal moments in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."
In the faraway land of Toronto, Canada, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a meek twentysomething without much happening in his life beyond being a second-rate bassist in a third-rate rock band.
But, he has no complaints about going nowhere because he's just met the girl of dreams. Seriously, the mysterious rollerblader with the pink tresses who has been skating through his daytime reverie just appeared before his eyes at a party.
And, though approaching someone as intimidating as American girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a gamble, it pays off when she actually shows a mutual interest in him.
Now, Scott just has to break up with his current girlfriend (Ellen Wong), which is more difficult than anything he could imagine. But, that was before he had a run-in with Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), Ramona's super-powered ex-boyfriend, who plans to destroy any of her potential suitors.
What's worse is that he's only the first of seven evil exes set to eradicate anyone who tries to get close to Ramona, and not only does Scott run the risk of being pounded into oblivion if he continues to see her, but he may just become the eighth if he doesn't watch his step.
Cera's propensity for playing lovable losers is in full gear here, as the shaggy-haired protagonist of Bryan Lee O'Malley's series of graphic novels. Though he's much more inclined toward the romantic scenes, he's unexpectedly believable when he puts up his dukes to fight for his lady.
Winstead is great as his jaded paramour, who's had far too many bad break-ups to believe that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. Judging by her track record, it's hard to blame her, with the septet of scoundrels that control her life.
Besides pyrokinetic Patel, there's Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), a pro skateboarder turned movie star; Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), a vacuous vegan with psychic powers; techno twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi (Shota and Keita Saito); and manipulative music producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).
However, the most intriguing member of this gang of exes has to be Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman), a teleporter with ninja expertise and an ax to grind with the male gender.
But, don't worry, Scott, Ramona's involvement with her was just a phase. Plus, he doesn't have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to exes, with the drummer (Alison Pill) for his band, a conceited pop star (Brie Larson) and high schooler Knives Chau, excellently played by Wong, filling up the first half of his dance card.
There's a very adult standpoint in this story of youngsters trying to find love, even though the casting would have us believe that there's almost no one in Toronto over the age of 30.
It turns into somewhat of a coming-of-age story without even having the appearance of one, as Scott, a whiny slacker if there ever was one, makes huge strides in his own maturity and self-respect.
After all, nothing helps you build confidence like punching someone so hard that they explode into a shower of coins, a la "Super Mario Brothers."
The video game style is inescapable, with references to everything from brawler platforms like "Street Fighter" and "Tekken" to music games like "Dance Dance Revolution" and "Guitar Hero."
Director Edgar Wright enhances this digital world even further with the same kind of quick camera shots and offbeat wit that he displayed in "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz."
Factor in a revamped Universal Studios logo that looks like it was designed by Atari, and you've got a surefire hit with the gaming crowd.
The shortcoming of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is that people who have never touched a joystick won't be able to fully appreciate its video game sensibilities and more than likely won't be able to relate to its characters.
But, thanks to a story that's more interested in developing the young lovers at its hub rather than focusing on the outlandish fighting involved in their courtship, there's something for everybody.
Still, the music provided by alternative rocker Beck may be a way to separate the kids from the fogies.