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Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (12A)

Film review: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (12A)

Published on August 31st 2010.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (12A)

Layabout twenty-something losers with pipe dreams of making it big. Pop culture references in everything from the soundtrack to the scene transitions. Self-referential fantasy fight sequences complete with witty repartee. Has Spaced series three: the withdrawal years finally made it to screen?

The Tarantino of comedy, Wright is the referencing king and, as a result, Scott Pilgrim is a nostalgia-inducing homage to pop culture, from the Legend of Zelda to Seinfeld.

To skip to the end, no. But Brit writer/director Edgar Wright has done his best to sate that Spaced-sized hole with ,i>Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, or at the very least provide a – prepare to feel old – new generation with something to quote.

In wintery Toronto, Canada, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, go-to-geek) lives the simple life of an unemployed 23 year-old. He plays bass guitar in his band, the almost-good-but-not-terrible Sex Bob-omb (harking back to early Beck), shares a bed with his gay flatmate and his boyfriends, and enjoys riding the bus (not a euphemism) with his 17 year-old Catholic schoolgirl girlfriend, the Chinese-Canadian Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Then the delectable Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) rollerblades through his dreams and he’s smitten.

All Scott wants is for Sex Bob-omb to win a record deal with the G-Man label, to date Ramona and for Knives to happily exit stage left. Then he receives an email from one Matthew Patel, claiming to be one of Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes (AKA ‘The League’) decreeing a fight to the death. Bor-ing. Unfortunately, what Scott dismisses comes to kick him in the ass. Literally.

If Scott is going to date Ramona he’s going to have to defeat The League and at the very least avoid Knives - a lesson in dating people named after sharp objects. Fire balls, demon chicks and bass battles ensue.

Part fantasy, part action-comedy, Scott Pilgrim is an utterly bizarre cinematic experience that doesn’t even require 3D gimmicks in order to boggle the eyes. We’re in Scott Pilgrim’s fantasy world, where characters are allotted ratings and descriptions, there are Sim-esque ‘pee bars’ for toilet time, and fight scenes deliver more ‘kapows’ than Adam West’s Batman.

Based on the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series by Canadian Bryan Lee O’Malley, Michael Cera dons the fur-trimmed parka of the title lead. Cera’s brand of clean-cut geek is perfect for playing slacker Pilgrim and keeping his gormless innocence likeable. As realism isn’t this film’s objective, Cera gets to stretch his acting muscles in a more physical way and be the all-action hero as he pafs his nemeses into oblivion (or, in this case, piles of coins).

Even in Hollywood, Wright seems to have retained the edge that made Spaced a box set necessity. Without Wright, even Simon Pegg becomes light-hearted rom-com fodder (although hopefully upcoming Paul will put a stop to that). Every frame in Scott Pilgrim is full of the surreal humour and random asides that made Shaun of the Dead so enduring. The Tarantino of comedy, Wright is the referencing king and, as a result, Scott Pilgrim is a nostalgia-inducing homage to pop culture, from the Legend of Zelda to Seinfeld.

If Pilgrim’s universe is a living, breathing comic brought to live, then Ramona Flowers is still a hazy sketch. Winstead has definitely been rescued from the schlock horror market (Black Christmas, Final Destination 3), and her wide-eyed Ramona is the archetypically aloof female enigma, that unobtainable object of desire. She’s also frustratingly underwritten and her kooky hair is no Blue Ruin.

Another character suffering from lack of screen time is Scott’s unsympathetic sister, played by Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Twilight Saga). Kendrick is earning her comic credentials outside of the angst-ridden Forks and managing to hold her own amidst the plethora of larger-than-life characters battling for attention.

The highlights of these totally badass characters include Brandon Routh’s vegan ex whose self-righteous strength is enough to knock the highlights from a girl’s hair, Chris Evans’ actor/skateboarder channelling Ben Stiller at his satirical best, Jason Schwartzman piling on the tiny-man smarm and Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman, Arrested Development) from Ramona’s ‘curious’ phase. Despite this, it isn’t a member of The League who steals the film.

A grown up Kieran Culkin spares the family name by being the best thing in every scene he’s in, and in a film where even transitions share the limelight that’s no small feat. As Pilgrim’s dry-witted gay flatmate, Wallace Wells, he plays platonic bed-partner, the bemused spectator to Pilgrim’s life and the push Pilgrim needs to make any actual decisions, always on hand with a coffee and a pithy remark delivered with exceptional timing.

The film might have benefited if some of the seven evil exes had been given the old heave-ho sooner as other elements of the film seemed lacking as a result of the indulgent lengths of the fight scenes. The ‘subspace’ that Ramona Flowers uses to skip between places is barely explained, along with Ramona herself. But these are at worst niggles that don’t detract from the film’s overall brilliance.


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