Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright (screenplay), Bryan Lee O’Malley (graphic novels.)
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, and Anna Kendrick
It almost seemed as if America had had enough of Michael Cera. His “quirkier than thou,” acting career had cornered its hipster niche, and then pummeled it with character after awkward character until they just couldn’t take it anymore. As we saw with his two earlier and still best movies, Superbad and Juno, his comic style’s effectiveness is screenplay dependent. Thankfully, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘s got one of those, and it doesn’t pummel you with his long pauses or dopey, annoying sensibilities.
Another thing this potent, and fully alive comic book adaptation’s got is a visual style. I’d rather be pummeled by fantastic visuals than awkward pauses any day, and director Edgar Wright does this. It can overwhelm at times, and if it were in 3D it would kill you, but Wright effectively makes up for this summer’s lack of visual polish. You’ll feel like you’re watching a music video and playing a video game, especially if you’re familiar with the artistry of both mediums.
Buried beneath the endless visual onslaught is a screenplay with enough comic juice to make up for the other schmucks of summer laughs. Wright combines his quick cuts and visual cues with his biting one-liners and glares. When you see a battle of the bands that spawns two gigantic monsters that duel to the death, you’ll know you’re not in Hollywood anymore.
Cera’s indie cred has transferred into tinsel-town bucks with the kind of cash his movies have generated. While he does do the wide-eyed grins, shrugs, and pauses that make people everywhere think he cares about them, Wright keeps it to a thankful minimum. For once, Cera gets to duel baddies to the death, and is pretty good at it.
When his new girlfriend, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), tells him of her seven evil exes he must defeat, the two embark on the most difficult quests a person can, love and facing their past. These exes are hit (Jason Schwartzman) and miss (Chris Evans), and the camp that the screenplay banks on can go a tad too far even though it intended too.
At the heart of this movie, fighting off the campiness of the evil exes and the quirk of her lover, is Winstead’s Ramona Flowers. In a star-making performance if ever there was one, Winstead gives us a teen version of Eternal Sunshine’s Clementine, color-changing hair and all. She warms the screen with charm and character complexity, a confident “yin” to Cera’s awkward “yang.”
Backing up these two fighters is a supporting cast with some gems and some duds. Anna Kendrick as Scott’s critical sister and Kieran Culkin as his hilarious roommate shine brighter than the rest, while Evans and the rest of the first few exes are forgettable or just terrible.
Thankfully, Wright doesn’t try to fit in everything from the six novels. In a two-hour package, we get a movie with more style than it knows what to do with, a screenplay with more jokes than you’ll catch the first time, and a cast with more charm and moxy than anyone in The Expendibles. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is trying to pick up the slack for the rest of the summer of 2010. You can’t fault it for trying, especially when it succeeds.