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Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Rating

Director
Edgar Wright
Screenplay
Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright (Graphic Novel: Bryan Lee O'Malley)
Length
112 min.
Starring
Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ben Lewis, Nelson Franklin, Kristina Pesic, Ingrid Haas
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references

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Review
Defining Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is nearly impossible for those who did not grow up with video games as a part of their daily lives. I'm not talking arcade games, but console games played on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari and the like. If you aren't familiar with them, then understanding Scott Pilgrim becomes infinitely more difficult. Yet, for those who have that knowledge, there are so many fond memories on display, both as tributes and as punchlines, that it's impossible not to enjoy significant portions of the film. And that, perhaps, is its most deceptive quality. At the heart of the film is the somewhat lovable loser Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), an out-of-work 22-year-old who plays bass in a garage band with big aspirations. After getting flack from his gay roommate, bandmates, sister and old high school chums over dating a 17-year-old student with whom he seems to jive, he finds himself attracted to a mysterious new girl in town and begins a transformation of his own life from loser to hero.

All of this is accomplished by defeating her seven evil exes in Street Fighter-style combats with video game motifs and flashy visual effects. As he's working his way through the eclectic assortment of combatants, he and Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) move through the semi-typical stages of a growing relationship: the doubts, the recriminations, the dealings with the past. There are ups, downs and sideways complicating their relationship all while Scott's very life is in danger. The skill with which the film is edited is one of its most admirable qualities: it's twistingly comprehensible, but swiftly complex.

This may also be one of the rare films that's reception hinges entirely on a cultural divide. This could explain why the film fared so poorly with audiences. The marketing campaign made it feel like any number of other video game movies and, since many of them have been fairly disappointing, audiences stayed away in droves. On top of that, anyone other than the intended audience, the video game generation, wasn't about to sit down and understand what was going on. But those who manage to get where the film is coming from, intuitively untangle the myriad references, and appreciate the loser-gets-the-girl ending as an embodiment of their own adolescent frustrations, will find a charismatic, peppy and entertaining flick.
Review Written
September 13, 2010

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