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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Proud of Hogtown pedigree –

In Canada on August 13, 2010 at 09:03

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Proud of Hogtown pedigree

Published On Thu Aug 12 2010

Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a scene from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a scene from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. World

Profiles of director Edgar Wright
and cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley


By Peter Howell Movie Critic

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

(out of 4)

Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman and Ellen Wong. Directed by Edgar Wright. 113 minutes. At major theatres. PG

There are two opposing postures for engaging with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a video game slyly disguised as a movie. Choose one:

Put your arms straight out, twitching your hands madly as if playing Street Fighter IV or other digital distraction on an Xbox. Consider yourself plugged in.

Or, cradle your head in your palms, anticipating the migraine brewing from the flashing lights, flailing limbs and split screens assaulting the retina. Count yourself among the disadvantaged who Just. Don’t. Get. It.

Few amusements can top Scott Pilgrim for so squarely hitting the bull’s-eye of its target audience. The film may baffle regular citizens (and migraine sufferers), but it welcomes geeks of all ages and obsessions to its circus tent.

The latter include fans of the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels that started it all, and which are faithfully and impressively adapted by Edgar Wright, the director and co-writer (with Michael Bacall).

Then there are the gamers, ranging from Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man old schoolers to Guitar Hero axe wielders, who will veritably quiver at the live-action approximation of their digital fun.

Those who are Jung and easily Freudianed will appreciate the film’s psychedelic stick-handling of subconscious sexual fears. The titular Scott, 22, a desultory rock bassist played by Brampton’s own Michael Cera, is obliged to fight the arcade-style Seven Evil Exes of his new girlfriend, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), in order to prove his devotion to her. (That’s basically the entire plot, in case you were wondering.)

The film will even please connoisseurs of the old Batman TV series, fondly recalled by the “Biff!” and “Kapow!” and even “Love!” graphics that archly underline the action.

The legions well served by Scott Pilgrim would include the excitable dude next to me at a recent preview screening, who bellowed “Epic!” at the happy sight of the Universal Pictures logo in the opening credits, made to look as if it had been designed by a Commodore 64. Kewl!

There were also appreciative roars for the many in-joke references in this made-in-Toronto movie, which proudly squeals its Hogtown connections with shots of Casa Loma, Lee’s Palace, the TTC, Pizza Pizza and cherished landmarks and institutions.

And did I mention the soundtrack loaded with the generation-spanning tunes of Metric, Beck, Frank Black, T. Rex, the Black Lips and the Rolling Stones?

Those not sufficiently engaged in this calculated chaos would be the aforementioned migraine sufferer, who might prefer to just stay home and bang his head against the wall.

Those who dig it will really dig it, with the caveat that a little Pilgrim goes a long way. As Scott works his way through those Seven Evil Exes, you may find yourself wishing he’d hurry things up and either dump the demanding Ramona or get her to deal with her own karma.

The success of Scott Pilgrim is largely due to the detail-rich work of British film boffin Wright, who demonstrated with the zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead and the cop satire Hot Fuzz that he can mash a pop-cult reference like none other.

For example, when Scott sports a T-shirt reading “Zero,” it can be read as a shout-out not only to his perpetual loser status, but also to 1990s grunge gods Smashing Pumpkins and to the film’s outrageous plugs for Coke Zero.

Or when Scott’s psycho ex-girlfriend Envy (Brie Larson) talks about the Clash at Demonhead, she’s referring to the name of her Metric-style new band, not to a 1980s Nintendo game or to her having once seen the Clash play a gig at some place called Demonhead.

Cera is something less than a triumph, once again (sigh) playing the wimp, although in fairness his backbone has stiffened slightly and a measure of sarcasm has crept into his voice — perhaps he learned something from Youth In Revolt’s François Dillinger?

At this rate of manly progress, he’ll be ready to shave in about two years.

Scott opts not to run from the non-stop barrage of Exes heading to punch his lights out, or worse. Their ranks include characters played by the likes of Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman, who exhibit varying degrees of kinetic psychopathy and hilarity.

Scott also has to deal with a 17-year-old high schooler named Knives (Ellen Wong), whom he has kinda been dating and forgot to properly dump, much to the disapproval of his sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick) and his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin).

Got all that? It’s okay, there won’t be a test.

But there may be a need for pain killers.


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