Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Playlist

This 2010 action comedy is adapted from the 6-issue graphic novel of the same name created by Bryan Lee O'Malley and is written and directed by Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame). It's easy to summarize this movie, but truly difficult to convey the absolute brilliant geek righteousness of it all. Basically Michael "Emo" Cera stars as Scott Pilgrim, a listless 20-something who is the bassist for the not very good indie rock band, Sex Bomb-omb. One day he meets the woman of his dreams in Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an aloof 20-something package delivery girl. Just as things start to blossom, Scott finds out that in order to continue dating Ramona, he must battle and defeat her 7-evil ex's. Battle after battle, can Scott survive and win the true affections of Ramona, or in the end is all love doomed with the eternal question, "continue?"

As the days have gone on since I intially first watched, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, there's been a huge and continued backlash towards the star of the film, Michael Cera. No other actor in recent memory calls forth such vitriol from movie goers everywhere as the eternal man-child, the emo-epicness that is Michael Cera. His detractors cry out that he's the same in every movie, just always slightly moving his face, pouting and generally being an overall wimp. Frankly I'm stunned by this. Not only because I can't understand why so many hate the guy, I mean truly from-the-bottom-of-their-heart hate the guy, but also because I've always liked his style. So with all the hate in the forefront of my mind, I decided to rewatch his Scott Pilgrim-ish turn as Nick in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. While my initial observations still hold true, it's more a soundtrack than movie (and the soundtrack isn't very good), a more documentary of NY music culture that indie-love story, and yeah I'm still way to old for the movie (where no adult appears to exist in the Logan's Run style that is NY of the movie), I have to say that I enjoyed it on my third watch. Perhaps after 2 repeat viewings I've just grown accustomed to it's mediocre character and plot development, but the movie and it's culture, it's panache washed over me on my third viewing and damn if I didn't enjoy it. I even went on ebay looking to buy a Yugo, but then again, I don't have a death wish.

Going back to Scott Pilgrim, this role is the ultimate Michael Cera-type role. I mean he's still the same nebbish, emo loser in a band, who's still reeling from a heartbreaking break-up (I mean this is the exact same character from Nick and Norah), but here he's more assured of himself, an almost oddly defined "playa" who can fight and will physically fight for the woman of his dreams. Here is Cera writ large, defined as the modern geek culture hero, a skinny guy with no muscle definition that can kick the butts of Superman and the Human Torch. Preach on Cera, preach on. But that's just Michael Cera's performance, what about the rest of the movie?

If you're a fan of the original graphic novels you won't be disappointed. It changes a lot of the story, the relationships, the battles, but all for the better for an adaption to the silver screen. The movie never let's up once, as the story moves from battle to battle, a hyper-imaginary world where video game fighting in "real" life is all part of the norm, and extra lives exist, where a geek who's pick-up line starts with, "do you know that "Pac-Man was originally called Puck-Man", can get the hottest girl in the room- very true to life- as music video-like cuts edit by at breakneck speed, and rhythm consistently pounds the screen with notes a la "Rock Band", a world where Superman got his superpowers from being a Vegan. Brilliant.

Sure there are some flaws to the movie- since it movies from battle to battle there is very little character development, and sure there's just a little too much going on the screen from time to time, an adrenaline pump for the ADD generation, and yes I get that people hate Michael Cera and this whole movie is Cera being Cera x10- but the jokes come a mile a minute, the comedy never feels forced or flat, playing for both the high-intellectual to the slapstick, and while there is very little character development, the characters are endearing, and unlike in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist here the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic.

The casting and acting are also pitch-perfect. Michael Cera embodies the spirit of Scott Pilgrim to the T and Mary Elizabeth Winstead really feels as if she was just born from the page to the screen. But the two actors that stole the movie for me were Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay-roommate Wallace Wells and newcomer Ellen Wong as Scott's jail-bait former girlfriend Knives Chau. Kieran Culkin is just brilliant and hilarious and the best of the comedy in the movie comes from his character. Ellen Wong is just the most honest, endearing and heartbreaking character in the movie, and while you may think Scott is an ass and Ramona is at times a mean spirited woman, you only ever want the best for Ellen's Knives Chau. Out of all the characters in the movie, Knives is the most honest and true character in the movie, a girl we all know or knew at one point in our lives, a reminder on what it means to be young.

I must admit that while watching the movie, I never thought it was too "geeky", too niche, as my friends cried out with joy as the music from Final Fantasy, Zelda, Seinfeld and Mario Brothers played in the background of the movie. As the credits rolled and I smiled to myself thinking, "damn that was one amazing movie" and one that while not based on a video game, was the best video-game movie I have ever seen, I turned to my "Ramona" and asked what did she think. She went on to lament that she didn't get a lot of the jokes, and pressed asking "why did the words, 'bam, ring, vroom and zip' keep appearing on the screen", words that I never thought twice about always thinking they belonged. As she continued to reiterate her hatred for Michael Cera, I began to wonder if this movie was too "geeky", too niche for the general mainstream public. And then when the boxoffice results came out and the movie came in 5th, with a measly 10 mil take, I began to come to grips that my love for this movie may not really translate for everyone.

Still with that said, I enjoyed the hell out of Scott Pilgrim vs. the
and give it a "bring your lunch from home because you do not want to miss this one." I cannot wait until this hits dvd and blu-ray so I can watch it over and over again and marvel at what the tagline of the movie succinctly puts, "it's epic epicness."

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