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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.15%
Average: 3.85%
Pretty Bad: 15.38%
Total Crap: 28.85%

5 reviews, 22 user ratings

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
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by Erik Childress

"Hating An Edgar Wright? Say It Ain't So!"
1 stars

After recently making the case for the directors of the last decade, a list that included the likes of Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, I speculated that when revisiting this list in a few years that a case could be made for Edgar Wright. With only two films under his belt, 2004's Shaun of the Dead & 2007's Hot Fuzz, his resume was still a bit slight for consideration. But in a few years with a few more films, the guy who so successfully combined skilled genre filmmaking with actual parody of those genres (and whose Hot Fuzz was both my favorite film of '07 and, unashamedly, #10 on my list of the best from 2000-09) could join the ranks. That journey begins with his adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's independent Scott Pilgrim comic series and delivers the first serious chink in his armor. An infuriating exercise in geek-baiting populated by unlikable characters that grows more frustrating through its 113 minutes, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is more like a feature-length adaptation of Reality Bites: The Video Game.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22 year-old slacker living in Toronto with his gay friend, Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin). Getting over a bad breakup with rock star, Envy Adams (Brie Larson), Scott has taken to dating a 17 year-old high schooler, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) when he is not jamming with his less-than-less-than-stellar garage band, Sex Bomb-omb with Stephen (Mark Webber) and another ex, drummer Kim (Alison Pill). One night Scott begins having dreams about a mysterious girl on rollerblades with colored hair. She turns out to be Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a delivery girl that he will go to great lengths to be with. And may just have to.

Before they even meet, Scott has already been contacted by one of her own exes that they are headed for a fight. He is just one of the League of Seven Evil Exes from Ramona's past who are showing up in town to take Scott on mano-a-mano (and in one case, womano) to ensure they will never end up together. The League includes action movie star, Lucas Lee (Chris Evans); extreme vegan bass player, Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh); a relic from Ramona's experimental phase, Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman); and record producer, Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). When finally getting around to the latter, he asks, "Do you really want to fight me? For her?" A question that should have been answered more than an hour earlier.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World exists in a world populated by characters who live for record stores, arcades and doing the bare minimum in their chase for fortune and fulfilling their libidos. In description, they are not unlike the ones who made up Edgar Wright's previous ventures, Shaun of the Dead and cult TV fave, Spaced. The difference between those consummate mash-ups and Scott Pilgrim though is precisely where our own attention lies. We can accept the film's style in trying to incorporate on-screen declarations of sound out of a comic book. We can accept the world of mega-fighters straight out of video games with no formal training to speak of. What we cannot accept is wandering around this universe with a thorough collection of unlikable characters who can't even rise to the personality of an Atari 2600 pixel.

Michael Cera has become the young adult poster boy for the hopeless romantic. From Superbad to Juno to lesser-seen efforts like Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Youth In Revolt, his personality on screen hasn't changed much, but there was always an unforced likability about him and his natural comedic timing continually made Cera someone you wanted to hang around. In Youth in Revolt he got a chance to play the evil side of that personality, but for Scott Pilgrim he regresses back and then doubles up on the shy-guy irresolute quirks and it makes for a critically apprehensive viewing experience. Already a questionable bloke for his choice of an underage rebound girl, it must take either true love or a real special girl to then cheat on her. And Ramona Flowers represents neither of those.

The last time this many guys fought over one girl it was back in 1998 with a girl named Mary. The sports-loving, handicap-helping guy's gal filtered through the sunny performance of Cameron Diaz truly had something about her that other men will willing to sabotage one another over. Who is Ramona Flowers? As filtered through the dead-faced performance of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, she is a girl who changes her hairstyle every week. And? And what? You tell me. What exactly is she inspiring in any man (or woman) to go fistacuffs on the next person that comes between them? A love interest inspiring this much passion has to be more than just a mere MacGuffin. Calling Winstead dead-faced may be overly harsh since every performer from Culkin to Pill to Aubrey Plaza deliver their lines with the stone-faced seriousness of the film's cemeneted aura that everything which comes out of their mouths is a hipster knee-slapper. Culkin's supposed scene-stealing turn hinges entirely on precisely how gay he can be from one to the next. It's hard to tell with the character as written if Ramona could have been all she could be with a casting change, but it may have been interesting to see how Anna Kendrick would have fared. Instead of pigeonholing her into another Twilight-like confidant (in this case, Scott's disapproving sister), Kendrick's fresh-faced vulnerability that she displayed so well in her Oscar-nominated role from Up In The Air may have helped to soften and eventually sweeten Ramona's hold on Scott and the audience.

Precisely then what is at stake for the rest of the film? Scott doesn't exactly need on-the-job training since he is ready to jump in with fists-a-blazin' on the first evil ex. Like a video game each rival should increase in difficulty with each confrontation. This may be true of the first few, but after a while when the fighting is dependent to keep us interested just on a visceral level, the story fails us there too. Wright's Hot Fuzz gave us one of the best final acts of a movie in years, but when his source material here is leading up to a fight with Jason Schwartzman, doomed takes on a whole new meaning. It is not as if the weaknesses of the exes form to construct an end-all paradigm for the fragility of relationships and their idosyncrasies. (One includes the perfect orgasm of all things.) So Scott isn't even fighting the battle on behalf of all the nice guys who pay attention to their ladies. And when the tables are flipped and an undercard fight is announced in the closing scenes, the film is so devoid of an emotional connection that the audience, nor I believe the film, has any clue who to be supposedly rooting for in the battle for Scott's heart.

Wright is a genuine filmmaker whose tricks in the past have complimented and skewed the varying genres he was working within from zombies to action films to sitcom relationships. The energy on display in deploying those tricks are very visible here but service only to create a live-action version out of the least interesting genre of video gaming to come down the wire - the one-on-one fighting game. (See: Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Double Dragon). Wright is a self-aware fanboy himself and gets instant recognition when including acoustic cues like the Seinfeld theme and a Flash Gordon sound effect involving a ring. When it comes to Sex Bomb-ombs performances (and varying competition), the music is not bad in a funny way and one attempt at a musical sequence should have one running for the subtle strains of 1980's The Apple. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World puts aside what he has been best at in recognizing the worst tendencies of any given group, giving it a little poke and spinning it around without losing everything we adored about its flaws. Instead, it's a two-hour poke in the ribs hoping to generate the effect that the hypnotized gamer with the retro shirt sitting next to you will just say "cool" without ever actually feeling the poke.

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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

8/25/21 Brian A polarizing romp! I'm in. 5 stars
3/13/21 Elias Kasidiaris Holy shit this site is old. Amazing director, characters are shit 3 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
8/15/10 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
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  13-Aug-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2010


  DVD: 09-Nov-2010

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