Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Director: Edgar Wright

****

Is there any way to make an adjective like ‘nerdy’ sound good? The connotations are pejorative, but ‘nerdy’ is the best way to describe Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. One could argue that the ‘nerdy’ tag is one of the reasons why it has underperformed at the US box office, but this flailing B.O. take is undeserved; Scott Pilgrim is an achingly hip, deliriously energetic little flick. Nerds rejoice: your ship has come in!

Using the word ‘nerdy’ is unavoidable when referring to Michael Cera, who stars as the eponymous Mr. Pilgrim. Cera has made his career from playing awkward geeks who somehow still get girls with relative ease (How does he do it?! I wish I knew sooner, because my teenage years were lonely ones!). From ‘Arrested Development’s lovable George Michael, to the likes of Juno and Superbad, he’s a geek running the risk of serious typecasting. However in Scott Pilgrim, Cera’s nerd boasts one important difference: he kicks ass! After falling for the kooky Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Scott is confronted by her Seven Evil Exes, whom he must defeat in order to be with her. The exes include a jackass action movie star (Chris Evans), a dopey rocker (a blond bewigged Brandon Routh) and a slimy music executive called Gideon (Jason Schwartzman, clearly having fun with this role). Meanwhile, Scott has to dump the girl he was dating before (Ellen Wong, adorable), try to find success with his band Sex Bob-Omb and tolerate his sister’s (Anna Kenrdrick) nosy advice. Game on!

Your first question is probably this: what the hell is an Evil Ex? It’s an ex-boyfriend, but quite why they’re evil isn’t clear to me. Where did they get their powers? Why does Scott have to defeat them to get Ramona? And why does Scott share a bed with his gay roomie (Kieran Culkin, possibly the best thing in the film)? The latter occurs because it’s hilarious. The first two questions result from underplotting. Michael Bacall’s script with director Edgar Wright is as slight as the comic book from which it’s adapted. The plot mechanics make little sense, but then the direction tells us that sense is going out the window on this one. Sound effects are written onscreen. Boxes appear next to characters listing their stats. One scene even plays like a scene from ‘Seinfeld’, music and all! Why? Because it’s freaking cool! The world of Scott Pilgrim bleeds colour, from the sound waves from Scott’s guitar that morph into giant creatures (!) to the greens and blues Ramona dyes her hair. The palette is varied and neon-bright, whilst the battles between the exes are intense, edited to within an inch of their lives. Epileptics need not apply.

The 12 to15-year-olds at whom this film is aimed will be in heaven; the opening Universal logo is rejigged to resemble a pixelated image from a video game, whilst the strongest bad language is (brilliantly) bleeped to ensure a PG-13/12A rating. Frankly, if you’re over the age of 40 or have never played a video game or guitar before, you might be left wanting by Scott Pilgrim. It’s fairly shallow once you prod below the surface, but that surface is full of laughter and vim. Like Wright’s first film Shaun of the Dead, the film has a clear affection for its main character, and does its utmost to ensure you will too. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a wild ride and dares you to keep up.

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