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Overall Rating
3.08

Awesome29.41%
Worth A Look: 23.53%
Average: 1.96%
Pretty Bad: 15.69%
Total Crap29.41%

5 reviews, 21 user ratings


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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Love Bytes"
1 stars

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be stuck in the world’s noisiest and flashiest video arcade for two solid hours in the presence of two of the most irritating and least likable pseudo-hipster slackwits to ever grace the big screen as they endlessly whine, mope and mumble about their lives without ever betraying anything remotely resembling wit, charm or intelligence? If this is something that you have been yearning to experience, if only vicariously, then “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” is the answer to your most profound dreams. If this isn’t something that strikes you as being right up your alley and you aren‘t an easily flattered member of the fanboy contingent who automatically laps up anything vaguely designed with such people in mind, then you are likely to find the film a joyless and grating stab at creating a contemporary cult classic that is just as annoying and insufferable as the characters contained within and about as edgy as a trip to the auto department at Sears.

Based on the acclaimed series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the film stars Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, an unemployed 23-year-old slacker in Toronto who divides his ample free time between playing bass in a not-very-good rock band named Sex Bob-Omb, dating a 17-year-old high school girl by the name of Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and being relentlessly razzed for dating a high school girl by his fellow band members--the inexplicably named Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), the slightly-less-inexplicably named Young Neil (Johnny Simmons) and the fiery Kim Pine (Alison Pill)--his acerbic gay roommate, Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) and his level-headed younger sister, Stacey (Anna Kendrick). One day he is instantly besotted--or as close as he can possibly get to being besotted as the result of his ethnic handicap--by the sight of a purple-haired delivery girl rollerblading through his dreams and is even more delighted to discover that she is indeed a real person by the name of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He determines to make her his girlfriend--though he makes no mention of this to Knives--and after some initial (and fully understandable) hesitation on her part, she eventually succumbs to his charms. Alas, the course of true love has never run smooth--not even in Toronto--and Scott discovers that before he and Ramona can really be together, he must step up and do battle with her seven evil exes, who include a movie star (Chris Evans), a vegan bass player (Brandon Routh), a grumpy lesbian (Mae Whitman) and a malevolent record producer (Jason Schwartzman), in a series of elaborate brawls staged in the style of the “Mortal Kombat” videogames.

The central conceit of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”--taking the idea of coming to terms with a new lover’s romantic past and looking at it through the eyes of someone who can only relate to the world in pop-cultural terms--is actually a pretty inspired idea and could have led to any number of intriguing storylines. Perhaps that was the case of the original graphic novels, which I must confess to having never read, but in making the transition from the page to the screen, the premise has been completely and inexplicably squandered along the way. A smart film would have established the basic premise early on and then developed it further within the context of the story. In this case, there is barely any story to speak of--after an aimless opening half-hour of noodling about, the battling-the-exes gimmick is established and that is pretty much it for plot development. Instead, the film offers up one repetitive fight scene after another featuring people yelling at each other while being knocked through brick walls and an endless array of pop-culture in-jokes revolving around old videogames, comic books, movies and the like. Unfortunately, the fight scenes, no matter how lavishly stylized they may be, are fairly dull affairs that fail to work either as action or as comedy--amazing that this is a film featuring a final no-holds-barred battle royale between the unlikely duo of Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman and yet there is not a single laugh to be had at such an idea--and the cultural references have no real bearing on the proceedings for the most part and generally seem to have been included to show how clever the filmmakers are. For example, there is one sequence in which a conversation between Scott and his roommate is made to feel like a “Seinfeld” rerun with the addition of some quirky background music and a laugh track. This may be funny by itself for a second or two but it quickly becomes apparent that the film has nothing to say about the show, its take on relationships and its influence on the lives of its viewers--it is just another throwaway gag thrown into the mix for a easy laugh. (Besides, considering that the 23-year-old Scott would have been about 11 when the show originally went off the air, it is highly unlikely that someone his age would use it as that kind of cultural touchstone.)

The lack of a compelling story--hell, any story--and the overabundance of stylistic quirks and arcane cultural references are irritating enough but they have little to do with the ultimate failure of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” to entertain or engage viewers. The real problem is that we are supposed to actually care about Scott, Ramona and whether they wind up together and it is impossible to do so because they are presented to us as two of the least likable or interesting characters to grace the silver screen in a long time outside of the occasional Todd Solondz joint. Scott is a low-wattage and barely sentient drip with no discernible charm, no interesting quirks and all the charisma of a plastic plant and the idea of him dating a high-school girl while on the rebound from his previous girlfriend, a rival rocker who had the temerity to be successful (Brie Lawson), comes across here as more creepy than cute. As for Ramona, she comes across at first as an openly hostile crank but once she lets her guard down, we realize that she is also a bland non-entity whose only vaguely memorable characteristic is her oddly colored hair--the notion that someone as lifeless as her could attract as many people as she does is arguably the film’s funniest joke and I somehow doubt that was intentional. As a result, it is impossible to work up any interest in them either as individuals or as a potential couple and since the whole film is anchored on the premise that we want to see these two triumph over romantic adversity, it winds up slowly and painfully dying on the vine as a result. (Matters are not helped by the lackadaisical performances from the two stars--Cera is especially irritating in yet another variation on the lovelorn schnook character that he has been playing for virtually his entire career while Winstead never manages to make any sort of impression on anyone.)

What is most inexplicable about “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” a film that is chock-full of inexplicable things, is the fact that it was co-written and directed by Edgar Wright, the British filmmaker whose previous efforts, the zombie-filled romantic comedy “Shaun of the Dead” and the action spoof “Hot Fuzz,” are among the funniest to emerge in the last decade or so. Like “Scott Pilgrim,” those films were filled with wild energy, bizarre jokes and tons of in-joke references to their respective genres for the hardcore fans to congratulate themselves for catching. However, what made those films so impressive is that even though they were conceived as wacky comedies, Wright made sure to include fully developed stories and characters that we actually cared about as well to serve as an anchor for all the wackiness--he was so successful in this regard that if someone decided to strip out all of the jokes from those films, they would stand up fairly well as straightforward takes on their respective genres because you had a rooting interest in the characters and the stories. I don’t know whether they were sacrificed in an effort to telescope six graphic novels into one movie or if they were never there to begin with but he doesn’t have those elements to play with here and he always seems to be at a loss for what to do as a result. He tries to cover up the film’s essential hollowness by throwing in as many flashy distractions as he can but he just doesn’t seem to have the stomach for the ruthlessly inconsequential material he is working with here. Nevertheless, Wright is one of the smarter and more talented of the new crop of emerging directors and I am confident that he will recover quickly from this mess--no doubt a lot sooner than I will.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20173&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/13/10 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/11/14 Uoblbbnb USA 4 stars
9/08/13 Simon Technically excellent w/innovative direction, but fatally hollow unlikeable characters 3 stars
8/23/13 KingNeutron Really grew on me after watching more than once. 4 stars
5/31/13 fartvenugen Dumb, unfunny, worthless. 1 stars
6/28/12 Jerome "Milk and Eggs Bitch" - Classic 4 stars
2/04/11 matt Fucking funny and action-packed. Bizarre but somehow Wright holds it all together 5 stars
12/09/10 ES Hilarious 5 stars
11/30/10 April I love Cera and Wright, but this movie was such a disappointment. 1 stars
11/18/10 joey johnson Funny on some parts. 4 stars
10/30/10 M.J. I honestly didn't read this review but I'm 99 percent sure it used the word hipster in it. 5 stars
9/15/10 Joe What D said. 5 stars
9/13/10 Steph Well, you're a "hip" movie, here's your final reference: TL;DNR 1 stars
9/03/10 Sean My favorite movie this year, but if you don't get it, you'll hate it. 5 stars
8/29/10 UnionJ Anyone who doesn't irrationally hate Cera will love this! 5 stars
8/28/10 Mitch Dolan another near perfect movie from Edgar Wright 5 stars
8/25/10 Davey Great movie. Loved it. Edgar Wright hits another one out of the park. 5 stars
8/17/10 Flounder This is real hit and miss. I enjoyed it, but found much of it disjointed 4 stars
8/17/10 karamashi Visually stunning, fairly good adaption, a little exhaustive but overall a blast. 4 stars
8/16/10 PAUL SHORTT LIMP ACTION ADVENTURE WITH UNLIKEABLE CHARACTERS 2 stars
8/15/10 D The fact that you toss in a reference to Sears shows how far out of the target demographic 5 stars
8/13/10 Ben Erik Childress is right. This film is a sloppy, uncontrolled failure of a worthy experiment 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Aug-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Aug-2010
  DVD: 09-Nov-2010



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