Things that we’re big fans of: the films of Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shawn Of The Dead). The Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Retro video games. Things that we’re not: Michael Cera. The ageless, perpetually befuddled actor was fine in Arrested Development but has become more grating and one-note as his career progresses. So how do we feel when matter and antimatter collide, as in the case of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World?
Let’s start out with a basic truism: Scott Pilgrim is not for everybody. It’s a very specific kind of fantasy, an early twenties mind-game populated with references that evoke a very specific time and place. If you don’t know what a Power Glove or a barre chord are, you might not have much to cling onto. But if you grew up snapping your belt at your little brother like you were Simon Belmont, this might as well be your life story. Well, with some exaggerations. Quick synopsis: Scott Pilgrim falls for Ramona Flowers, the new girl in town. Unfortunately, he needs to defeat her seven evil exes to date her. On the surface, it’s as simple as an 8-bit videogame. But the story’s not just about Scott busting heads – there’s a lot of questions as to just why Ramona is the way she is, and the story takes some unexpected detours on the way to the final confrontation with final ex Gideon Gordon Graves, played by Jason Schwartzman.
Scott Pilgrim is a good film, but it’s a frustrating one. The hyper-stylization of the screen is fantastic – Wright folds hundreds of visual tics and flourishes into the movie’s action, from Batman-styled sound effects to video game references, and they all work – the movie doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the characters can’t support the decoration. Cera is barely there as Scott Pilgrim, which he can’t toally be faulted for. In the books, Scott is the main character in name only – he’s flighty, irresponsible and often annoying. This works in a graphic novel of hundreds of pages, where you can move around his quirks, but on-screen it’s just frustrating. You don’t have any real idea why Ramona likes him, which is compounded by the fact that she’s virtually a cipher as well.
What really works is the film’s supporting characters, from the Seven Evil Exes (special kudos to Chris Evans and Brandon Routh, both of whom are spectacular) to Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells (played by Kieran Culkin). The world Scott lives in is full of wonder and magic. It’s just a shame he isn’t.