When Scott Pilgrim vs. The World opened fifth at the box office, people in the film industry started asking what went wrong. The obvious answer is that it opened against a crew of action stars in The Expendables and Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love. The reason could also be, however, that the aesthetics of the movie appeal to a pretty niche audience and sometimes overshadow the broadly appealing story.
In Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Michael Cera stars as the title character, the 22 year-old bassist for a self-proclaimed pretty awful band. Scott is still hung up on his ex-girlfriend when he starts dating 17 year-old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Just about the time when Scott’s bandmates Kim (Alison Pill), Stephen (Mark Webber), and Young Neil (Johnny Simmons), are starting to run out of jokes about his relationship, he spots the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at the library. Quickly forgetting about Knives, Scott begins dating Ramona, who is not only too cool for school, but also has seven evil exes who Scott has to defeat before he can be her boyfriend. Meanwhile, a heartbroken, angry Knives is out to defeat Ramona and win Scott back. Other key players include Wallace (Kieran Culkin) and Stacey (Anna Kendrick), Scott’s roommate and sister who are intimately involved in pretty much all of Scott’s business.
The plot of Scott Pilgrim vs The World is modeled after epics, but the aesthetics of the movie are inspired by video games, independent rock, comic books, and, in one scene, Seinfeld. The eclectic mix of sound effects with accompanying graphics, fast transitions, and fantastic fight scenes creates an interesting, textured experience. At times, however, these elements distract from the story rather than enhancing it.
I thought the story itself was really clever. Scott Pilgrim draws on the conventions of both classic epics and more modern ones, such as Star Wars, to make an epic tale out of the love life of a pretty average guy. The story includes big battles, a trip to the underworld, tragic flaws, and more. Although it falls apart a bit at the end, the movie has a genuinely engaging story with interesting characters and a fun, upbeat pace.
Like many other epic heroes I know of, Scott Pilgrim sometimes seems to think a bit too highly of himself. Consequently, my favorite characters are some of the minor ones. Wallace and Stacey, who are in the habit of discussing and mass texting all of Scott’s business provide a funny commentary to Scott’s misadventures. Kim represents Scott’s own bad history with relationships and I enjoyed Alison Pill’s consistently glum performance. The League of Evil Exes features roles for actors such as Chris Evans, Mae Whitman, and Jason Schwartzman as they attack Scott when he least expects it. As Knives, Ellen Wong is adorable.
Although it is pretty cool, at some points Scott Pilgrim seems a little too aware of its own hipness. If I wanted to watch something that self-satisfied, I’d look out the window when the hipster kids across the street are having a party. Mostly, though, I think Scott Pilgrim is an interesting, fun movie with a good story, creative art direction, and great performances. I rate it 4/5 stars.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was directed by Edgar Wright and written with Michael Bacall, based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It runs 112 minutes and is rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language, and drug references.