Movie Review – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Plot: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a young musician living in Toronto who falls in love with the spunky Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  In order to date her though, he must defeat her seven exes in this fantasy/comedy that is built like a video game and based on the comic book.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has no rules.  It can do whatever it pleases.  If the movie felt like giving us a giant frog that attacks bridges then everyone would say how clever and innovative it was.  They don’t care about an explanation.  Well I do.  This is a frustrating film.  Now I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t like it all that much.  I think there are elements here that could work.  The problem though is that the movie is cluttered with quick cuts, annoying sight gags and pop culture references that come out of nowhere.  There is a good story going on, but everything is so damn distracting that I just stopped caring thirty minutes in.

Let me get the really annoying stuff out of the way first.  The absolute worst part about this movie are the quick cuts.  What do I mean by this?  The movie goes to seven locations in the span of three seconds.  It was infuriating.  We are in a record store.  Then suddenly Scott Pilgrim moves his arm and we are at a party.  The he moves his head to the side and we are back in his apartment.  The director (Edgar Wright) thinks he is being really clever and slick, but it’s just distracting and annoying.  I couldn’t absorb any information because of this crap.  I really hate when directors do this.  It’s gimmicky garbage that a lot of people just eat up.  I can’t stand it.  Just let a damn scene play out.

The sub-plots were also distracting.  The main story going on is actually really funny.  This soft spoken/smart alec guy has to fight these deranged exes in order to keep dating this girl.  And all the exes he has to fight were really amusing.  I wish the story just focused on that.  But instead there is this sub-plot with Scott’s current girlfriend (Ellen Wong) who constantly stalks him.  Whenever the movie starts to get interesting, she has to show up and ruin everything.  Or another plot is Scott’s band trying to win this contest that I really didn’t care for.  The ads were selling me on Scott confronting these eccentric exes, but the movie is constantly throwing you back and forth between all this other crap.

What saves the movie is the acting.  Let me be the first to tell you, I am not a Michael Cera fan.  He’s a one trick pony and we all know it.  He was at least tolerable in this film.  Anna Kendrick as Scott’s sister was really funny, and I enjoyed Alison Pill as Kim who plays this really deadpanned friend/ex of Scott who is also the drummer in their band.

The man who steals the show is Kieran Culkin, Scott’s roommate, Wallace Wells.  First of all, great name.  But secondly, this guy was hysterical.  Every time he spoke I cracked up.  Even his facial expressions had me in stitches.  This guy literally saves the movie.  I want to see Kieran Culkin in more films.  He can deliver.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t appreciate the acting as much as I wanted to.  It goes back to the central problem of the film; it’s cluttered with too much crap.  Edgar Wright feels the need to put something gimmicky and “clever” in every shot.  Whether it’s the phone ringing and you get the word “ring” in bubble letters that float out of the phone, or it’s some random animation clip that comes out of nowhere, it just all distracts from what’s going in the story.  There is so much of it that you just become numb.  So when the last big action scene the movie has been building up to arrives, I just didn’t care anymore because I was filled up with so much bull crap flying at the screen.

I think Scott Pilgrim has some solid entertainment value.  Like I said, I laughed at some of the performances, and the exes he fights were funny.  But watching this really makes me appreciate something like Inception so much more.  That’s a movie that’s so well structured and boggled down with so many rules, it’s heart pounding to experience the characters having to fight through those rules.  Here, everyone can just do whatever the hell they want.  Where’s the tension?  They can get 1-ups, have magical powers and fight with animated swords for the hell of it.  If Edgar Wright wanted to keep this a video game world, then okay.  But it switches from video game to sitcom to animation, and eventually I just lost all sense of what the hell I was looking at.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment) 

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