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Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Premise: An adaptation of the graphic novel. Independent rock band member Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must fight and defeat the six evil ex-boyfriends of his new love interest in order to live happily ever after with her.

What Works:  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the latest from director Edgar Wright, a filmmaker known for subverting the conventions of film genres while simultaneously fulfilling them. But Scott Pilgrim is even more ambitious than his previous work. Where Shaun of the Dead sent up the zombie films and Hot Fuzz parodied buddy cop pictures, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World takes on multiple film genres including action films, teen romances, video games, and super hero stories and mashes them together in an explosion of pop art. Although this collection of elements might have overwhelmed a lesser filmmaker, Wright and co-screenwriter Michael Bacall have a firm grip on narrative and character and keep the film surging through all of its elaborate set pieces. Even as the film bombards the audience with non-diegetic elements, piling in sight gags, one liners, and allusions, it keeps chugging forward with Wright’s characteristically furious editing and shooting style. The film is also assisted by Michael Cera in the title role. Cera gives a performance typical of his work in films like Juno and Superbad but as Scott Pilgrim he is at his shuffling, mousy, and emasculated best; the story demands that Cera actually do more than mumble his way through his scenes and the actor rises to the occasion, giving a complex portrayal of young man who must learn to take responsibility for his actions. Cera is accompanied by Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his character’s love interest and Ellen Wong as his former flame. Like Cera, the two actresses play it real despite the fantastic nature of the story world and ground the interpersonal drama of the film. And that is what makes Scott Pilgrim vs. the World so extraordinary. The film incorporates the elements of its various genres to create a surrealistic story world but then takes its hero on a very real emotional journey.

What Doesn’t: For all of its visual surprises, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does come up a bit short in narrative twists. For the middle act of the story, the title character spends most of his time fighting his new girlfriend’s former loves or waiting for them to show up. The film smartly reverses this in the end, but for a while it does get repetitive.

Bottom Line: Whatever Scott Pilgrim vs. the World might lack in narrative it more than makes up for with its sense of fun, style, and overall coolness. The film is a satisfying blend of action, comedy, and cinematic craftsmanship that is very entertaining.

Episode: #303 (August 29, 2010)