Originally Reviewed – 9/10/2010
Let’s get one thing straight before I start my review of Scott Pilgrim…there is a small spot in my heart that’s reserved for a few things geeky. Not all things geeky mind you, just a choice collection of subjects that are socially labeled as completely dorky. Video games being one of them, imagine how intrigued I was when the trailers for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World first came out. A Nintendo themed picture involving 1-Ups and Tekken style flying kicks that’s directed by the man who brought us Shaun of the Dead’ The nerd inside of me giggled with delight and my instincts were largely correct. Scott Pilgrim is a well-made and fully engaging story of young love that makes up for any weaknesses in the script by providing loads of cinematic eye candy.
The story kicks off as the trendy yet shy rock geek Scott Pilgrim, bass player for the indie band Sex Bomb-Omb, falls for funky girl extraordinaire Ramona Flowers. Soon after they start canoodling, Ramona informs Scott that if they are to continue their teenage love affair, he must defeat her seven evil exes in stylized video game fashion. This sets in motion a series of Street Fighter style battles against the exes, each with its own distinct style and flare. My main concern coming into the film was how repetitive seven fights would be but I’m happy to report that each engagement is distinctive and visually interesting. Add in a love triangle between Pilgrim, Ramona and a 17 year old Chinese girl named Knives and you have yourself a simple story of self-discovery wrapped in the bright lights of a 90’s era arcade.
As far as the man who plays the Musical Mr. Pilgrim is concerned, most people know that I am not a Michael Cera fan. Lacking acting chops, charisma and overall talent, Cera better pray his teenage quirkiness lasts until he’s about fifty. Unfortunately, Cera does nothing in Scott Pilgrim to increase my fandom, although he does fit the part quite well. While he still demonstrates zero skill in emoting or bringing anything out of the character other than lines, Cera does the bare minimum, which in this case, is enough. On the other hand, Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a fine job as Pilgrim’s love interest. Without her surprisingly good performance, SP would have been all bright lights but with it, the story holds together and keeps audiences engaged enough between the punk rock special effects of the fight scenes.
That, of course, is where Scott Pilgrim really shines as a film. While the coins raining from the skies when an ex is defeated may scream of fan service, you don’t need to get the Mario Brothers reference in Scott’s band name to enjoy the visual wizardry. Director Edgar Wright outdoes himself by peppering in just enough score tallies, 8-bit sound effects and geek-centric references to keep the film visually enjoyable without becoming annoying. This is a well made film in almost every sense but unfortunately, the story does start to tail off in the third act. While the individual ‘boss battles’ are all different in their own way, the underlying theme gets muddled. Wright sometimes gets criticized for making his films twenty minutes too long and the same argument could be made for SP as the crux of the story does gets watered down due to the movie’s length.
Minor quibbles aside, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a well made visual spectacle, featuring fine performances by everyone not named Cera and a sweet underlying story. Although that story runs a little thin, the spirit of the film does not, giving audiences more than enough reason to hang with it until the end. While having some idea of the word of video games would enhance your enjoyment of this movie, knowing the location of the third Warp Whistle in Mario Bros 3 is luckily not required. What is required is an appreciation for young love, kids making awkward mistakes and a whole heaping helping of comic style butt kicking. Miles better than that other comic book movie that came this year, Scott Pilgrim knows exactly what it from the first frame to the last and while it’s not high cinema, it sure is a whole lot of fun.
Score – 80%