Is 2010 the year I officially became too old for the multiplex?
First, we’ve had the regrettable 3-D revolution, to which I stand in staunch, Louis XV style opposition. Then there was Kick Ass, with its fetishized pre-teen assassin. I certainly liked Inception, but I never became obsessed with its many labyrinthine, video-game-like levels.
And now we have the video game/comic book mashup Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It’s ingenious, to be sure, but I found its hipster sensibilities exhausting. It’s an AP class at Comic-Con.
Scott (Michael Cera) is a 22-year-old guy in a band with a high-school-aged girlfriend named Knives (Ellen Wong), a bitchy (but loving) gay roommate played by the droll Kieran Culkin (where ya been, Kieran?), and a no-nonsense sister played by the under-used Anna Kendricks.
Then he meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He falls instantly in love, but discovers that he must conquer her “Seven Evil Exes” before they can officially be an item.
The talented director, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), uses a combination of old-fashioned comic book techniques—sounds are written out in letters across the screen—and classic video game stylings. Because the whole movie is in a fantasy/dreamlike otherworld (think of it as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the Forever 21 set), there are no narrative rules. Every moment is ripe for an inside joke, a meta commentary, a split screen, a thought bubble.
I loved much of this stuff, but I hated how manic the film was. I didn’t need every punch to be delivered with a “Thwack” or a “Ka Pow!”, every phone to say “Ring, ring!”, or every raucous punk song (Scott’s band is actually kind of good) to start with a “1, 2, 3, 4. . .” countdown on screen.
And ultimately, the fights, many delivered in the herky-jerky karate of bad video games, and at least one involving giant dragon avatars dueling in the sky, got tiresome.
Part of the problem, it must be said, is Cera himself. The bird-like actor, with his knobby knees and sadsack demeanor, always manages to the get the girl. But it’s usually in some unconventional way. But in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Cera’s success with the ladies is never questioned. He’s a heartbreaker, a pipsqueak lothario. I can’t help but wonder what the film would be like with a more conventional leading man.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film that encourages you to applaud not just its cleverness, but your own cleverness in getting the joke. I got the jokes (well, most of them at least), I’m just not sure I wanted all of them.
To read my complete review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, check out the September issue of Baltimore.