Film Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 13 Aug 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, the long-awaited and much hyped adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s cult comic strip, has finally arrived. Attention deficit in the extreme, this film will bludgeon you over the head until you like it and, by the time the credits roll, it’s quite likely you will.

Scott Pilgrim is a twenty-two year old geek who, instead of getting over his ex and moving on with his life, is playing bass in his dubiously talented garage rock band Sex Bob-omb (if you don’t get that reference, you may be periodically lost at sea during this film) while dating a school girl. His gay housemate Wallace (Kieran Culkin, very funny) and his band mates naturally take this as an opportunity to judge him. Things are going reasonably well until Scott meets soon-to-be love of his life Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) whose romantic history will, quite literally, cause him a world of pain.

The central premise is that Scott (played by Michael Cera, again playing the same character as in countless other films but still somehow getting away with it) must defeat Ramona’s ‘seven evil exes’ in an effort to win her heart. Everything that happens, then, is a thinly veiled exploration of young love and relationships, purposefully brash and heavy-handed but not without its warming moments.

The fact is that Cera is still likable in this now tried and tested role, but this is surely the last time he can play to type. His comic timing is still spot on, and nobody plays geeky-cool quite like him, but he must branch out at some point or people will start to tire of his act. The supporting cast, clearly having a ball with a series of ludicrous and often funny characters, compliment him well, while Winstead is effortlessly sexy as the object of his desires.

This is a youthful film for youthful people. Exuberant and breathless, it will simply tire some viewers out. Stepping out of the film is like waking up from a pulverising dream: your head is full of colour, whimsy and, somewhere in the back of your mind, a bewildered sense of enjoyment. The fundamental appeal of the film will be raised or lowered greatly depending on whether you’re willing to just go along with it. If the thought of Cera playing the theme tune from Final Fantasy 2 on bass or countless visual references to old school beat-em-ups sounds off-putting to you, then this may not be the best choice. The film is a hodgepodge of cultural references and visual idiosyncrasies that both charm and frustrate. Comic book characteristics abound (onomatopoeic words spring from punches and ringing phones, an invisible narrator chimes in from time to time, there are flashback sequences presented in comic strip form etc) whilst the numerous video game references simultaneously irritate and endear. Your palette for this type of thing will pretty much determine your level of enjoyment.

This was the film that was going to propel Edgar ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Wright into the mainstream, and it almost certainly will. There is no doubting that the film looks unique and visually audacious, even if some of the touches are more successful than others. It moves along at an almost constant gallop, and the result is that even at almost two hours long, the film bizarrely feels quite short.

There is very little depth to any of this, it must be said, and the likelihood is that those stylistic flourishes and geeky references will alienate as many viewers as they cater for. Similarly, the action in the film (which is plentiful) veers drastically from well-choreographed duels to epilepsy-inducing fountains of colour and loud noises. Fortunately the film is consistently funny and the humour is generally enough to paper over the flaws. There is never really a sense of danger in the film, no real consequences for anything that happens, so it’s difficult to feel attached to it on anything other than an aesthetic level, but it is satisfactorily geeky, funny enough to recommend, and in the end not quite like anything else you’ll see in the cinema this year.


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