While I generally do not go into films expecting to hate them, I was fully prepared to hate Scott Pilgrim. For one, it stars Michael Cera whom I feel has the acting ability of a four year old as a Christmas tree in a pre-school play. For another, I do not like being told what I should watch and ultimately think is cool. And finally I felt the film might be a bit pretentious considering that its marketing material declares that it is an epic of epic epicness.
The first twenty minutes of Scott Pilgrim did nothing to change my mind. Scott (played adequately* by Michael Cera) is not exactly a likable character, in fact he is kind of a self centered ass. The first act of the film revolves introduces us to Scott and his self serving behavior. He has little regard for anyone’s feelings except his own. He is dating high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) for the sole purpose of propping up his ego. Then at seemingly the drop of a hat Scott starts stalking the mysterious new girl in town, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and things begin to get interesting.
Ramona has seven evil exes and before Scott and Ramona can go off to hipster heaven Scott must defeat them. It is here that the film really takes off, both stylistically and from a story standpoint. Stylistically the film is a love letter to video game fans. Between the 8-bit overlays to the sound effects to the framing of Scott’s battles as if it was part of an arcade fighting game the film seems specifically targeted for that specific demographic. Most of the time I found it quite endearing although at times I was on the verge of sensory overload.
On the story end of the things, the seven exes are all nicely varied, with each fight taking place in a unique environment with a unique outcome. Scott is no superhero and he often times takes a beating, much to my enjoyment, but the ways he escapes death at the hands of these super powered freaks is quite enjoyable. Director Edgar Wright does a great job letting the scenes develop and speak for themselves. Scott’s battle with evil ex #3 Todd (Brandon Routh) is both action packed and smart with an ending that is as hysterical as it is satisfying.
As much fun as the battles with the exes are, they fail to mask a lack of character development with anyone in the film and the audience is forced to accept Scott’s motivations at the end purely at face value despite nothing in the film ultimately pushing him towards that end. That is not to say that the ending does not work, it does but only in the shallowest of possible ways. Ultimately I enjoyed the bulk of the film and found my self satisfied with the ending.
Scott Pilgrim is a quirky film that is going to turn off a lot of people for a variety of issues. But if you get past the issues and accept that the film thinks it is cooler than it actually is it has some things that really stand out. Including some truly fantastic and endearing performances from Winstead as Ramona and Kieran Culkin as Scott’s best friend and roommate Wallace. Is Scott Pilgrim the best film of the year? In my estimation no its not. But it is something different that happens to be quite fun and should be celebrated as such.
4 out of 5.
*Adequately is about as strong a word I think I can give to describe Cera’s performance in anything at this point.