Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (2010)

For starters, I'm not so much a Michael Cera fan myself. With the likes of "Juno" and "Superbad" where the character he played in each were basically interchangeable, I figured this actor was a one trick pony. Working with director Edgar Wright ("Hot Fuzz," "Shaun of the Dead"), however, Cera has finally heightened his token deadpan humor and finessed it into his very own playing the 22-year-old skinny slacker named Scott Pilgrim. No matter your preconceptions of the actor and even with his high airy voice, lanky arms, nerdy demeanor and turtle-looking face, just give in to the fact that this guy is, along with being a character in his own video game, somehow a chick magnet. Might as well because otherwise you'll be missing out on, aside from "Inception," the second-most wonderfully original movie of the summer, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."

Edgar Wright, who is known for his already cult classic genre spoofs, tackles something entirely new in adapting the series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley. The world of Scott Pilgrim, embedded in the chilled snow-covered realism of Toronto, is ultimately a fantasy, a world that is itself one big pop culture reference spanning from the 80s and 90s to today. It's a world that explodes off the screen with hyper energy and speed, flashing lights, colors, lively humor, quirky romance and highly stylized violence where nobody really gets hurt. The clever and charming visual accents of the movie transform this world into a mash-up of a comic book and a video game with doors that literally "Slam!" and phones that literally "Ring!" with defeated enemies bursting into a flurry of coins with glowing acquired point totals.

Strange praise would be calling this the best video game movie ever made because this is the only video game movie that wants to look like a video game without actually being based off a video game. Stranger yet that there is now a video game based on this movie. How does that work? Strangest of all is that the movie works as a video game with a big heart at its center. Unheard of, right? Scott Pilgrim's goal is simply to win the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a role that has her looking like a minor version of Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), a girl who carries a little extra baggage: the league of her seven evil exes all of which must be defeated before Scott can safely date Ramona.

Before Ramona entered his life (and dreams), Scott lived an ordinary life playing in his crappy band, Sex Bob-Omb--with a humorously frazzled Mark Webber singing the lead, a pouty but adorable Alison Pill on drums and all the songs composed by Beck--and dating his 17-year-old high school girlfriend, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Everyone around Scott observes and comments, rather bitterly for the most part, on his plight more so including how to let Knives down easy to go for Ramona rather than how to deal with the exes who want him dead. Among them is Scott's gay roommate, Wallace, in a hilarious and scene-stealing turn from Kieran Culkin and Scott's sister, Stacey (Anna Kendrick), who is perpetually impatient with him. With pursuing Ramona, Scott still has his own singular ex to deal with, Envy (Brie Larson), who is inconveniently part of a rock band that Scott's own band must eventually face-off against.

Each ex Scott battles is fun, weird and unique, and each duel boasts its own designated set piece and a even a "vs." that appears before our eyes. Brandon Routh as a bleach-blonde who gained magic superpowers for being a vegan, Chris Evans as a skateboarding, cocky action star and Jason Schwartzman as Gideon, the head of the evil exes are the highlights. Even an ex-girlfriend drops in who's more bi-furious than bi-curious.

The cast of characters is great, Cera and Winstead make a fine couple because you can tell she's constantly skeptical of him even as she's falling for him and although "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is essentially another coming-of-age tale, when is the last time you saw one complete with 1ups and game overs? You'll be all too tempted to say this honestly is like nothing you've ever seen before.

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