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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 13, 2023


Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Brie Larson, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Chris Evans, Satya Bhabha, Shota Saito, Keita Saito, Ben Lewis, Nelson Franklin, Michael Lazarovitch, Thomas Jane and Bill Hader.

Screenplay by Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright.

Directed by Edgar Wright.

Distributed by Universal Pictures. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Over the years, I have reviewed the terrible likes of Doom, Prince of Persia, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark and many more and been forced to come up with the following conclusion: You can’t make a good video game movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is forcing me to add a caveat to that long-held belief. You can’t make a good video game movie specifically based on a game.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is not based on a game. In fact, it is based on a respected graphic novel. And yet, it is the first time in a movie that I have felt that crazy, giddy gaming rush of adrenaline.

Scott Pilgrim is a flawed movie, but a fascinating one – quirky, crazy, fun, and funny.

It is a love story and an action film, a drama, and a comedy, a musical and a live-action cartoon, realistic and science fiction, impossibly cool and incredibly nerdy all at the same time.

It actually succeeds where star Michael Cena’s last film – the similarly quirky graphic-novel adaptation Youth in Revolt – missed the mark. Pilgrim captures the numb and apathetic longing of the new generation – an over-caffeinated, sensory-overloaded, throbbing need for something but a complete lack of understanding of what that thing is.

The characters of Scott Pilgrim have grown up with loud music, XBOX, casual sex, and violence to the point that they are stuck in a torpor of muted feelings, and yet they are sharp, snarky, smart, funny, and talented and have a wicked way with a topical reference.

All of which undoubtedly makes Scott Pilgrim seem much more serious and stuffier than it is. The movie dances to its own oddball cadences, but it is strangely fascinating and exhilarating – sort of like looking at the world through a funhouse mirror.

As envisioned by Brit co-writer/director Edgar Wright (leaving the safety of his Simon Pegg/Nick Frost co-starring team from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), Scott Pilgrim hijacks stylistic tricks from games, comics, old John Hughes movies, French new wave, anime, neorealism, music videos and even, strangely, Eurotrash melodramas.

Cera plays Pilgrim, a twenty-something wannabe rock star who is dating a cute Chinese high school student with whom he has become bored. Then he meets a disaffected punkish girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who he gets a huge crush on and decides to win over. They tentatively start into an awkward relationship – and then Scott learns that in order to win her over, he must do battle with her seven evil exes.

This quick plot blurb doesn’t start to do justice to the complexity and eccentricity of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on all levels. It’s not exactly something that can be explained – it has to be seen. I can see how this style of filmmaking would become horribly annoying if done poorly, but Scott Pilgrim – like its protagonist – ably sidesteps the pitfalls and traps that are inherent in its revolutionary new filmmaking style.

Also, definitely watch the outtakes. The Blu-Ray is one of those rare occasions where the movie literally has an “alternate ending” – a completely opposite take on the climax which is just as satisfying as the one that the filmmakers eventually decided to go with.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: November 3, 2010.


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