September 5, 2010
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010) ***1/2
Directed by Edgar Wright
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)- Keeps up its energy until the end. Clever & fun but Cera's shtick hurts the film. ***1/2 of 5
I've always liked Michael Cera, but after seeing Scott Pilgrim vs the World, he's officially on notice. His shtick of ironically delivering every line didn't help Youth in Revolt, and this time, it actually hurts the overall quality of Scott Pilgrim. The screenplay by Wright and Michael Bacall, adapted from graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley, has problems for sure, but Cera takes every single line and imbues each with his off-beat, goofy, knowing delivery. Sometimes he's able to illicit laughs from dialogue that wouldn't have been as funny without him, but much more often than not, the words in the script would have been funnier and perhaps even more ironic had they been delivered straight. There would have been a lot more laughs and ultimately a lot more heart to Scott Pilgrim vs the World if the actor in the title role had trusted the material enough to allow the humor to flow organically. Cera needs to either show us that he's capable of more as a leading man or else he's going to risk truly overstaying his welcome in Hollywood. If Cera's a one-note comic actor, then he might be able to succeed with supporting turns like in Juno, but he's starting to make me think that he absolutely can't anchor an entire movie by himself.
Putting that qualm aside, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a clever, enjoyable movie with a gimmick that's sustained really well from beginning to end. The character exists in a world governed by the logic of video games, and thus, in order to win the girl, he has to fight her seven evil exes. The fact that the movie equates the heightened stakes of love relationships to the heightened stakes of a violent video game is a stroke of conceptual genius. The fights are staged really well, and though I might have preferred four or five evil exes rather than seven, the economy of plot allows the viewer to stay invested until the end.
Wright tries so hard that unfortunately his jokes that don't work really lay there flat on the screen. Further, I found Kieran Culkin's performance and character to be both unnecessary and unpleasant. Culkin's an actor that can't seem to help coming across completely smug on screen with films like Igby Goes Down and Lymelife, and I'm guessing that this is because he's probably a bit of a jerk in real life. The screenwriters seem to have no clue whatsoever about how to write a funny gay character, and Culkin clearly has no clue how to play one.
The forward momentum does prove slightly exhausting by the final extended battle, which makes me a little apprehensive about seeing Scott Pilgrim vs the World 2 anytime soon. This is a world that I'm happy to visit for two hours, but once I leave it, I'm not in a rush to visit again until I've had a chance to recover completely. Still, Wright provides a one of a kind action comedy with a brilliant concept executed successfully.