Film review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

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I know, it was released over two years ago – I only just got around to watching it a couple of days ago. Was it worth the wait for me? Well…

I had massive expectations for this one – not because I’ve read the graphic novels that the film is based on (I haven’t), or that I’m a gamer (I’m not). My anticipation was mainly due to Edgar Wright directing the film. Wright, in my view, scored three impressive hits withSpaced(O.K., not a film, but a brill UK teevee series that featured loads of hommages to films), “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” (both films set in the UK and both parodies of popular genres, zombie/horror films and cop-buddy films, respectively). His whizz-bang style worked for those films and “Spaced” because the characters were genuinely funny and so were the references. So I was all set to check out his ‘Merican/Hollywood debut.

Gotta say, I wasn’t too impressed. Definitely seems to me to be a step-back from “Hot Fuzz”. Maybe it’s souped-up to appeal to American audiences..but then, as far as I know, “Hot Fuzz” did pretty well in the States.

Michael Cera, as the title character, plays his usual nebbish-y dork role, complete with goofy haircut. This time around, he plays bass in a really average indie-rock band (I refuse to type ‘grunge’…oop, I just did). He’s in his early 20s, but he’s dating a high-school girl called “Knives Chau”. You read that correctly. Someone, even in an imaginary universe, called their child “Knives”….a female child. Anyway, in another in-joke that only musos will get, Scott’s band-mates are called “Stephen Stills” and “Young Neil”. His ex-girlfriend, Kim, plays drums. The name of the band is “Sex Bob-Omb” (one of many, many video game references in the film – I am ol’ skool enough to get that one, though).

“Anyone need a guy to play a lovestruck nebbish?”

One night, Scott has a dream about a roller-blading girl with pink (purple?) hair. He’s convinced that she actually exists and later, at a party, he sees her. Her name is “Ramona Flowers”. Again…Ramona??? I didn’t think that name was even in circulation anymore. She works for Amazon as a courier, so Scott orders a book, or DVD, or whatever, so she’ll deliver it. He somehow convinces her to hang out with him and they hit it off. He then gets a strange e-mail telling him that he has been challenged to a fight by the ‘League Of Ex-Boyfriends”, which will happen soon. He ignores the e-mail – but then, at a gig of the band’s, he meets Matthew Patel. Matthew is the first of Ramona’s “Seven Evil Exes” that Scott has to defeat in battle to win her heart…

….and that’s pretty much it for the plot. He battles the other six exes, one being a woman. We meet Scott’s gay room-mate, “Wallace” (played by Kieran Culkin, of the Culkin acting dynasty). Wallace has some funny lines, but I couldn’t help thinking the character’s a bit creepy and also seems to be stereotyped as the “promiscuous homosexual”. Every time Scott is shown waking up in the morning, a different man is in the bed next to Wallace. The fights are staged like rounds in “Mortal Kombat”, or one of those million other one-on-one fight video games. When Scott defeats an ex, they disappear in a shower of coins and a point total appears above the coins, like in the “Super Mario” games for the old Nintendo system.

Very very cute, but maybe too aloof?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead definitely provides the cuteness factor for Ramona, with her doe-eyes and husky voice, but not much spark and charm. Allegedly, in the graphic novels, Ramona is quite mysterious. In the film, however, she just appears aloof and well….bored. It’s honestly tough to see how she generated a spark with seven of the other guys, never mind the eternally dorky Scott Pilgrim. The hair-dye thing also made her seem a throwback to the riot grrrrrl 1990s, not an up-to-date indie queen. Dunno, maybe if she had an Amy Winehouse beehive? A 1970s-stylee Joni Mitchell‘do?

There’s also a sub-plot about Scott’s ex-girlfriend, “Natalie”, who left him and joined a new band that made it big. The guy she left Scott for is the bass-player in her new band. He’s also one of Ramona’s exes, so Scott has to fight him. The ex is a vegan and the big gag is that his powers come from him thinking he’s better than carnivores. I didn’t really find the gag all that funny, so I guess the scene was wasted on me.

Wright also uses devices, like when a phone rings, a “R-I-I-I-N-G” graphic will float through the air. While sorta funny at first, they do become over-used and during the fight scenes – they reminded me of the campy 1960s “Batman” film. You know, when Batman or Robin would hit one of the goons, the screen would show a “POW!” graphic. Maybe that was the intention, to make it seem cartoony – but the entire fights are cartoony in the first place, so the word graphics appeared superfluous to me.

Then there’s a bit where the “Seinfeld” theme music plays and a laugh track occurs – just sort-of appropros of nothng. Plus, the film is set in Toronto, Canada. What is the significance of the “Seinfeld” reference? Damned if I know.

In the end, I found myself not really rooting for anyone. I didn’t care if Scott got with Ramona, or that he was a dick to Knives, or if his band got signed to a label, or if he would ever move out of Wallace’s place. The climactic fight with Jason Schwartzmann‘s character, who’s the boss (geddit?) of a record label just fizzled for me. Despite a near-twist right in the final scene – the ending is telegraphed from miles away.

Pixie couldn’t stand “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World”, I think it’s just so-so. I am glad that I didn’t shell out to see it in the cinema, despite it’s cool special-effects in some scenes. We have a theory that Wright only spins gold when teamed with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (both of whom appeared in “Spaced”, “Shaun..” and “Hot Fuzz”) and vice-versa. I’ve seen some of Pegg’s “solo” films and the quality dips quite a bit. The less said about “That Boat That Rocked” (which Frost appeared in), the better. That “Paul” film, with Pegg & Frost teaming up with a CGI alien looked a bit weak as well. Here’s to hoping the triumvirate will convene again soon.

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