Saturday, November 3, 2012

Stubs – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Second Opinion)

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010) Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kiernan Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman. Narrated by Bill Hader. Directed by Edgar Wright. Screenplay by Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall, based on Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Music by Nigel Godrich. Produced by Edgar Wright, Marc Platt, Eric Gitter, Nira Park. Run Time: 112 minutes. U.S. Color. Comedy, Romance.

While I normally don’t review movies that are only a couple of years old, I’m making an exception with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Part of it has to do with the necessities of blogging (I needed to write something this week) and part of it has to do with the fact that one way or another, I’ve seen this movie four times (once in the theater, once on cable and twice on disc). While not every viewing has been my choice, I still have sat through and enjoyed this film four times.

Based on a graphic novel series that I have not read, Scott Pilgrim is an interesting adaptation, since it was completed before the series was finished, so the ending of the movie is not tied to how the graphic novel series ends. I have never heard of a movie based on a book that hadn’t been finished, that is until Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

This film showcases a lot of young talent. Michael Cera is perhaps the best known of the cast, having been in several teen comedies before this one. Cera plays the title character, Scott Pilgrim, your usual Canadian bass player in a garage band, Sex Bob-omb. He hasn’t ventured very far in life. He lives literally across the street from where he grew up and plays in a band with his friends from high school, Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and Kim Pine (Alison Pill). I will give the film credit that even though there is a real life musician named Stephen Stills, there is no mention of that fact, ironic or otherwise.

Scott is 22 going on 17. His girlfriend, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) is that age. She is cute, smart and falls for Scott’s goofy boyish ways. And Scott would have been happy, too, if he hadn’t met the very pretty  Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). And while he gets the nerves up to ask her out and she accepts, Scott must deal with her seven evil exes, with the emphasis on exes, rather than boyfriends, if he wants to keep dating her.
These battles are played against Sex Bob-omb’s own attempt at getting to the top in the music industry. They are involved in the Toronto battle of the bands with the hope of getting a recording contract with Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman) who happens to be the seventh evil ex that Scott has to face.

All the while, Scott is being judged by not only his younger sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick), his gay roommate with whom platonically shares a bed, Wallace Wells (Kiernan Culkin), his bandmates and Stephen Stills’ ex-girlfriend, Julie Powers (Aubrey Plaza) who seems to have jobs that constantly interact with Scott. Julie even orders Scott not to date Ramona, which he ignores.

What sets this film apart is that the fight scenes between Scott and the seven exes are done as if they were fights within video games. The fighters fly through the air and each time Scott defeats one, he receives coins as a reward and more coins with each level he moves up. While this is surrealistic, the film makes it work. On his pilgrimage so to speak, Scott must fight Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), Ramona’s first boyfriend, Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), a skateboarder turned movie star, Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), the bassist in The Clash at Demonhead, who’s super powers come from being Vegan, Roxanne Richter (Mae Whitman), Ramona’s girlfriend from her days of experimentation, and twins and Japanese electronica musicians Kyle and Ken Katayanagi (Shota and Keita Saito) before his final battle, level seven with Gideon.

The film has a really great sense of humor. One of my favorite scenes is when Scott is getting ready to go fight Gideon for Ramona’s hand. We’re shown flashes of his getting ready, but it slows down to show him meticulously tying his shoe laces. Another is when Knives drops by unannounced to see Scott post-break up, Wallace tells her he’s stepped out just as Scott jumps through the window, but has to come back to grab his jacket. And one last one to mention is when the out muscled Scott uses mind tricks to fool vegan Todd into drinking half and half. The resulting scene is one of the most memorable of the film.

Since this is a movie about a member of the struggling rock band, there is a lot of music. Most of it is very raw and very catchy. Sex Bob-omb is augmented by Beck, who wrote their songs. It is interesting to note that the actors who played members of Sex Bob-omb actually played on the soundtrack. While the only hit on the album is a 35-year old track from the Rolling Stones, the excellent Under My Thumb, it shows up at the most appropriate moment in the film.

There is too much right about this film to have it not been a bigger hit than it was. Shamefully, this film did not make back its budget. This is one time when the public messed up and missed out on a really good film that is worth a few or two. Having seen this film four times now, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good movie well made. Don’t be scared off by the subject matter or the generation of the actors. You don’t need to have read Scott Pilgrim or to play videogames to really enjoy it.

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