Friday, December 10, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Directed by Edgar Wright.
2010. Rated PG-13, 112 minutes.
Michael Cera
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Ellen Wong
Kieran Culkin
Anna Kendrick
Alison Pill
Mark Webber
Johnny Simmons
Chris Evans
Brandon Routh
Jason Schwartzman

Every now and then you watch a movie that just shouldn’t work, but absolutely does. Scott Pilgrim vs the World is one of those movies. On paper, it seems to have nothing going for it. It’s based on a graphic novel I’m apparently not cool enough to have ever heard of. The story feels ripped from the early days of fighter games, not exactly profound literature. There is going to be lots of action, but our hero, Scott Pilgrim, is played by Michael Cera, the wimpy whiny dude from Juno and a number of other teen focused flicks. Unconventional heroes are fine. After all, I loved Kick-Ass. This just seems to be too much of a stretch. A comic book movie with a video game plot? Or is that the other way around? Either way, I’m not exactly overwhelmed by anticipation as I press “play” on my remote.

An odd thing happens once the movie actually starts. It strikes a perfect tone and absolutely relishes in how ridiculous things are going to get. It knows its premise is dumb and that our hero is something less than our ideal of heroic. However, unlike Macgruber, which I recently had the displeasure of watching, in this film the script, sight gags and action scenes are actually very smart. Together, they take the last three decades of what was once strictly nerd culture, comics and video games, and morphs it into a clever, funny imagining of those two worlds colliding on the screen. It uses cartoonish, but still flesh and blood people full of the attitudes prevalent among those in their late teens and early twenties taken to absurdist extremes. There’s even some sly social commentary and an obvious moral. And all of it works.

That dumb premise? Scott Pilgram has an odd dream one night. The next day, he meets the girl from that dream, strangely enough. He falls head over heels for her that instant and hounds her until she goes out with him. Where does all the action come from? Shortly after starting to date Ramona (Winstead), the girl of his dreams, it is revealed that to continue seeing her, he will have to defeat each of her “7 evil exes”. These guys pop up out of nowhere and have all sorts of powers and fighting skills.

If you’re a fan of the original Super Mario Bros. and fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, or any number of classic video games, you’re prepared to love this movie. The same goes if you’re a comic book fan as a number of scenes are made to look like panels from the hero mags. Then there’s the occasional narration that is spot-on. Finally, Cera’s usual self deprecating humor is perfect.

Here’s the thing: I get the sense this is a love it or hate it type of deal. People like me will sing its praises. Others will roll their eyes at all the madness, complain about how unrealistic it is, proclaim it moronic, and me a moron for liking it. It boils down to this: if you can’t understand the brilliance behind the “pee meter," you’ll never get this movie.

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