I rarely ever see movies quite like “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” It is a film that walks through familiar themes and territories, but tweaks them just enough to the point where the end result feels refreshing and new again. It is a film that dares to be daring and, as a consequence, feels like no other movie you have ever seen before. It is not possible to pinpoint the film’s overall atmosphere; it blends most any genre that comes to mind. In fact, you can probably take any two separate minutes out of the movie and compare them side-by-side. Chances are you will never run into the same sort of material any way you slice it.
The film is directed by Britain’s own Edgar Wright. It is clear to see that this guy’s resume up to this point has been stellar to say the least. In 2004, he made his debut over here in America with “Shaun Of The Dead,” an elegant amalgamation of George Romero’s bloody, gory zombie flicks and the romantic-comedy genre (it’s a zom-rom-com). The movie has since become a classic. Next came “Hot Fuzz,” a similar kind of grouping, only this time with the cop-buddy genre and the slasher picture. It also received overwhelming praise and, in my opinion, is even better than “Shaun.” Both of these films are two of my favorites to come out of the last decade.
“Scott Pilgrim” is certainly a monster though. Picture if you will “Youth In Revolt’s” indie hipster vibe and humor joining with the no-holds-barred, frenetic pacing of, oh say, the “Crank” series. Now add on top of that an endless quantity of video game references, comic-book style visuals and brilliant cinematography. That is just about what you get when you walk into the film, plus there are entire sequences devoted to choreographed kung-fu, short musical numbers and animation bits. That is a package in and of itself.
The basic plot: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a dorky 22-year old Canadian who plays bass for a lo-fi indie rock band Sex Bob-Omb (see, video game reference right there), becomes infatuated with the girl of his dreams (in a literal sense), whose name is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Problem is that in order for him to get to Ramona, he must face and challenge her Seven Evil Exes. The League of Exes includes, but is not limited to, a famous actor/skateboarder Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), two adept Japanese musicians that also happen to be twins, and someone who gains ultra-powers from being vegan (Brandon Routh).
Many other smaller problems are brought about as well, such as Scott’s leading-on of an Asian schoolgirl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), Sex Bob-Omb’s desire to succeed at a local battle of the bands contest and the unraveling of the relationship between Scott and Ramona. These situations, while not quite perfectly executed, are still intriguing enough to maintain the attention of the audience.
The script of the movie is as oddball as they come. I put more than a few hard laughs away easy, but there were plenty of chuckles, giggles and smirks to be had otherwise. What it comes down to is that there is rarely ever a joke in here that doesn’t work. And trust me, there are A LOT of jokes they throw at you. One of my favorites is how every time Scott finishes an ex off (similar to boss battles in video games), they explode into an ungodly amount of different coins. The writers (Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall) must be very aware of the principles on how to write smart, well-paced sequences that exist solely for the purpose of getting laughs and succeeding at it. Those writers behind the atrocities known as “Date Movie,” “Disaster Movie,” and (soon to be) “Vampires Suck” should be MADE to study these guys’ work in order to understand the concepts of delivery, pacing and the like.
It also helps that, even if the characters aren’t always likeable themselves, they have an infinite amount of likeable and/or humorous qualities that you cannot help but get attached to. Scott Pilgrim himself is not always the best guy, but his deadpan one-liners, his awkward disposition and his perseverance to woo Ramona make up for any ill will you would feel toward him in any other light. Even the Exes are interesting. Lucas Lee, the local actor, is portrayed basically with just outright tool-baggery and pompousness and indifference toward his fans (one of which is Scott’s roommate played by Kieran Culkin).
While it is not as memorable as Wright’s other works and the fight sequences become a tiny bit used-up before the end, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is, simply put, an unforgettable summer movie experience of 2010. This is the sort of movie people have been waiting for. It fires on every cylinder at full-throttle and uses enough comic energy to fuel an old-folks home. It also does everything a summer movie should to garner my recommendation: it gives me appealing and enjoyable characters and puts them in thrilling situations. I don’t know why this simple formula is always such a problem with filmmakers these days.
Oh, and another thing: the fact that a bunch of soundbytes in the background come from “The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past” scores the film extra brownie points. I LOVE that game.