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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Last Saturday night was Date Night for the Mrs. and I. We rarely see movies at the theater (last one, I think, was probably Where The Wild Things Are), so we jumped at the chance. A brief scan of the listings: The Expendables (can’t take whatever that thing on Stallone’s face is seriously), Eat Pray Love (yeah…right up my alley), Lottery Ticket (I find these movies incredibly racist, but that’s for another time), Inception (can’t watch DiCaprio), Vampires Suck (more on that later), Pirhana 3-D (seriously…they made this a movie and it wasn’t just on SciFi), and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (wow…Michael Cera plays “that kid” again?!?!?). Seemed like slim pickens, but desparate times call for desperate measures, and Pilgrim seemed like the most palatable of the lot (by a long shot), plus it’s an Edgar Wright movie, so it can’t be THAT bad. So Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World it was. Best decision we’ve made in quite some time!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was (and still am) a mumbly, shoe-gazing, bass-playing, comic book reading, overly self-aware hipster dork through high school and beyond. If ever there were a movie that was right in my wheelhouse, this might be the one.

For those that aren’t familiar with the story, here’s a brief summary: Scott Pilgrim is your average early-twenty-something jobless slacker who does little more in life than wear hipster T-shirts and play bass in garage/post-punk band Sex Bob-omb with fellow slackers Kim Pine (drummer, also Scott’s ex-girlfriend, portrayed by Alison Pill [Milk, In Treatment]) and Stephen Stills (aka “The Talent,” singer/guitarist, played by Mark Webber whom I’ve not seen in anything since 2000’s under-rated Ben Affleck vehicle Boiler Room). Pilgrim is perfectly happy being the quintessential slacker (without the pot smoking…it is, of course, a PG-13 movie) until he meets Ramona Flowers, aka the girl of his dreams (literally) who is new to Toronto; she’s from New York, ergo she must be A)uber-cool and B)uber-dangerous; she totally Rollerblades in the snow…badass! Anywho, the budding relationship goes as you might expect until it is revealed that Ramona (absolutely nailed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead [Live Free or Die Hard, Grindhouse/Death Proof] has a history…that Scott must deal with; seven evil exes that he must defeat (think Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat – the video games, not the movies) if he is to continue dating Ramona. All the usual boy-meets-girl stuff ensues (awkwardness, “the chase,” growing apart, etc), only unlike your typical Hugh Grant/Renee Zellweger boring suckfest, it is interspersed with total video-game-meets-superhero movie, over-the-top ass-kicking. We’re talking tear-the-roof-off-this-mother donnybrooks, Vader/Skywalker-ish light-saber battles and a bass guitar-off. Yeah, that’s right…a bass guitar-off. Not exactly Jaco Pastorius versus Victor Wooten, but it was still an effing bass guitar duel. Clearly, this is not for the meek and meager.

Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Superbad, Juno) was brilliantly cast as the title character. I was originally skeptical, assuming that Cera was playing his usual mumbley shoe-gazer role (seriously…has any non-action hero ever been this typecast…aside from maybe Jennifer Aniston [yeah we get it…you’re the pretty-but-not-hot girl-next-door who just wants to be loved but can’t find the right guy]???). In retrospect, that was incredibly short-sighted of me; Cera was the perfect choice, because Scott Pilgrim is supposed to be a mumbly shoe-gazer. Cera nailed that part (natch) but he also nailed the role of butt-kicker, a move I didn’t see coming. Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down) was also dynamite as Pilgrim’s gay roommate/bedmate. Perhaps the best most underrated performance, though went to Knives Chau (played by relative newcomer Ellen Wong), Pilgrim’s 17-year-old wannabe hipster, seemingly innocent and yet totally badass high school student girlfriend at the beginning of the movie. Pilgrim is her first true love…she’s 17…her name is “Knives,”…you do the math!

Given that Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz – both personal favorites of mine) was at the helm, Scott Pilgrim is obviously smartly funny and funnily smart. Not your typical big-budget action comedy, Pilgrim spends a good deal of its time taking the piss out of the shrugging meh-fests that most hipster movies (read: most Cera movies) are, but not in that obnoxious, in-your-face, Aaron Seltzer “Vampires Suck“/”Disaster Movie“/”Meet the Spartans” schlocky, lowest-common-denominator way. It is an incredibly self-aware, tongue-in-cheek look at it’s own genre that it may in turn be the ultimate hipster movie. The dialogue is witty and razor sharp, and the fight scenes and video game references were so well done that you forgot you weren’t watching the newest installment in the X-Men franchise. With a budget rumored at between $85-90 million in spite of having no real A-list talent indicates just how much they spent on making it look awesome. Absolute home run in that (and every other) department. Well worth the $11 ticket price (seriously though, can we talk for a minute about the fact that it now costs $11 to go see a friggin’ movie….).

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
4.5/5 stars

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