Technology with attitude

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


First off, let’s get the Scott Pilgrim plot out of the way. Guy (Michael Cera) dates girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  Guy fights her ex-boyfriends.  Credits roll.  That being said, however, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  Or, rather, this is the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year.  Is that the same thing?  Not important, let’s get to the good stuff.

At its core, this comic book adaptation, is one loud and engaging homage to many art forms: Comics, Indie Rock, Video Games (Nintendo, in particular), Kung-Fu and Quentin Tarantino.  But unlike Tarantino and George Lucas who take care to “hide” influences to various degrees (samurai movies, spaghetti Westerns, Kurosawa), Scott Pilgrim gloriously wears its influences on its thrift shop t-shirt sleeves.  “Hey, we need some dreamy video game-type music to underscore this tender moment.  Yeah, that Zelda music is PERFECT!  No, not something SIMILAR to that Zelda music, let’s use the actual music!”  It’s these pop culture samples peppered throughout the movie that keep your eyes peeled, your eyes heightened, your heart laughing.  I’ll spare you just how nerdy I am and not go through a list of geek inside jokes, but rest assured, there are plenty.

Before you start to wonder if this film is all flash and gimmicks with no substance, be again assured that this is no soul-less summer blockbuster relying solely on high-tech effects (although kudos go to the Editors).  While the script is hardly Citizen Kane, screenwriters Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright inject enough honesty and heart to keep the quieter moments just as charming.  Think Diablo Cody‘s Juno without the need to invent a new slacker catchphrase every other sentence.

As the opening credits were rolling, I started to worry if I was clearly out of the age demographic it was targeting.  I started to wonder if the cast was a mix of the new generation of Hollywood actors that I couldn’t pick out of a line-up.  I’d name a few, but seriously, I can’t pick them out of a line-up.  And while this was true of many of the younger cast members (sorry, Jason Schwartzman, you’re not part of that younger generation, although I LOOOOOVE me some Jason Schwartzman), these actors are not the ones I was thinking of.  These kids are alright.  Kieran Culkin is a particularly snarky standout.

It’s tempting to write about the inside jokes I was referring to, but that’s what makes the film whizz by you in a blur.  You catch yourself catching those references, thinking briefly about that association and sometimes wondering just how you picked up on it so quickly.  Give in to it, celebrate it, enjoy it.

Okay, I can’t resist listing my favorite Scott Pilgrim geek-out moment.  It was hearing an indie cover version of Sade’s “By Your Side”.  It’s not really an inside joke, but watching the scene unfold, hearing the familiar chord progression and then finally placing the song in the unlikeliest of places made me grin from ear to ear, a slight fist pump for none to see, but my own to revel in.  Thank you, Scott Pilgrim, for fighting the good fight.