Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Ever have trouble wooing that special someone? Was he/she standoffish or reticent? Was he/she playing hard to get? Or just plain hard to get? Well, pal, you got off easy. Poor ol' Scott Pilgrim has to battle (nay, defeat) seven evil exes to win the hand of the woman of his dreams in Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

As in the series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley on which the film is based, self-absorbed but likable Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera in a role that he seems a bit too typecast for) is smitten with the mysterious Ramona Flowers (the appropriately dry Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but cannot pursue a relationship unless he can conquer a septet of diabolical former beaus. Complicating matters is that he's already dating another girl, Knives Chau (sidesplittingly played by Ellen Wong), who's too young for him anyway, but whose obsessive clingy-ness makes letting her down gently a tricky maneuver.

Having proven his knack for comedy on previous pictures Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright goes to work quickly on establishing a comic tone for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by framing it as a video game. Nifty graphics pop in and out of frame indicating point levels and character specifics, vanquished foes burst into coins, and vintage video game beeps and boops are laced throughout (I got an early chuckle out of hearing the familiar Universal Studios theme recreated in electronic arcade musical tones). This is to say nothing of the fight scenes, which are as frenetic and full of graphic exclamation points as a Mortal Combat face-off. True, all of this perpetual hyperactivity on screen eventually grows tiresome (and would have grown tiresome much sooner if it weren't for plenty of hilarious lines and visual gags), but a lesser director would have been inhibited by apprehensions of just that. Wright, on the other hand, grabs this concept by the horns and runs with it. Too many film makers fail to commit to the tone of their movie, but that's one thing Wright cannot be accused of, and it's much to the film's benefit.

I say this as a common movie goer possessing no familiarity with the comic book, but it seems that most common movie goers would disagree with my positive assessment, as the film has performed disappointingly at the box office, it's legions of fans just keeping it afloat. Maybe Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was only destined to enjoy a small cult following at best. It's certainly not a film for everybody. To that end, I'll mention that it's probably not the Academy's cup of tea. The creativity of the effects are oh so deserving in my opinion, but I have to say, “No Oscar for you.”

*** out of ****

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