Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Badly flawed

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on August 19, 2010 on tonymacklin.net.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film full of sound and fury signifying WTF. It's slick shtik.

It begins with 22-year old Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), as he's trying to recover from a break-up with a former girlfriend named Envy Adams (Brie Larson), who is now leader of a hot band. Scott himself is trying to make it as a bassist with his own indie band in Toronto. What a guy. What a wimpy guy.

Then Scott P. falls for provocative vixen Romona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He has to furiously fight her seven ex-boyfriends -- the League of Evil Exes.

One by one they attack, and he repels them with great dazzle. The dazzle is provided by director Edgar Wright, not by the actor who plays Scott Pilgrim.

Michael Cera has an engaging, winsome puppy dog presence, but his welcome is pretty worn out. It's as though he's repeating the tenth grade ad nauseam.

Mop-haired and wide-eyed, he lives on the edge of vapidity. Cera is likeably bland -- close to being a cipher. He is a permed poodle of anxiety. Cera could grow up to be Don Knotts.

Cera's Scott Pilgrim is a reluctant lover. How Scott became blond bombshell Envy's boyfriend is beyond reason. His relationship with Romona is listless and sluggish. And I'm afraid I don't care whether or not Scott gets to second base -- I don't even care if he gets out of the dugout.

Also as Scott Pilgrim, Cera has to be an action hero -- or at least a nimble nerd. Director Wright puts his young hero through frenetic, kinetic, pyrotechnic paces. Scott kicks, throws helter-skelter rapid-fire punches, leaps, pulverizes.

The very repetitive jousts (there are seven with one repeated) end in a climactic combat between Cera and 5' 6'' Jason Schwartzman (the ex named Gideon). That's not exactly the stuff of MMA. Jersey Shore's Snooki gets the winner.

Cera's appropriate competition probably should be the proverbial wet paper bag.

The climactic battle between Cera and Schwartzman is so monumental, they repeat it again. Believe me, once is enough.

Wright directed and co-wrote the inventive and amusing Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). In both those movies, he was admirably served by actor Simon Pegg. Maybe some day Cera can grow into Pegg.

In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright and fellow writer Michael Bacall channel graphic novels by Canadian Bryan Lee O'Malley. But too often they give into indulgence and redundancy.

American Splendor (2003) -- also based on a graphic novel -- accomplished brilliantly what Scott Pilgrim vs. the World only takes sporadic shots at. American Splendor had a stronger leading actor (Paul Giamatti), a much richer main character (Harvey Pekar), and a style that creatively served the content instead of overwhelming it.

Wright in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World creates a lumpy mix of Bollywood, sitcom laugh tracks, satire on Vegans, allusions to video games with scores after each battle, words ("PAF" "WHUD") and letters floating across the screen.

But the most enthralling image in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is spindly Michael Cera and shrimpy Jason Schwartzman in mortal combat.

That's graphic.


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