Stan the Movie Man Reviews "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World"

Our past, or the past of those we love, can come back to haunt us. Sometimes, it’s bad choices made in the use of credit cards. I’ve had friends who married someone who failed to mention they owed thousands of dollars on a credit card and didn’t know about it until the collection calls started. There are the stories of campus radicals from the 1960’s and 1970’s who were wanted on serious charges involving bombings or other major crimes who were either captured or turned themselves in decades later after changing their names and starting families. Their past crimes usually came as quite a surprise to their spouse and children. Fortunately, most surprises from the past don’t take the shape of something as serious as massive debt or long jail sentences. In this weeks’ movie, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” the life of one young man becomes complicated by the past of his new girlfriend…in a spectacular way.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is at a kind of dead end in his life. At 22, he lives with his gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) in a basement apartment across the street from where he grew up. He dates 17-year-old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) who is still in high school and can only go out during the day. He continues to pine over Envy Adams (Brie Larsen), a lost love who dumped him to pursue rock and roll stardom and is actually succeeding. His band, Sex Bob-omb, is stuck in Toronto, practicing at band member Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) house and going nowhere fast. He sees a woman in a dream with bright magenta hair, skating through the desert of his subconscious. Later, while on a date with Knives, he sees the woman is real. Asking around, he discovers her name is Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and she may be the coolest woman in Toronto or anywhere else. After an awkward introduction, Scott and Ramona begin to click, but there’s a problem: Scott must battle and defeat Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes. Each former lover is stronger and more dangerous than the last, testing Scott’s endurance, his relationships with friends and band mates, and his feelings for Ramona.

I love “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” There aren’t many movies that are, on their faces, this silly that I completely enjoyed. The film assumes a few things about its audience: First, that many of us have played some kind of video game, specifically those games like Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong and other games where defeating enemies rewards you with coins. Second, that many of us have been hurt and unsure of how to move forward from that hurt. Third, that we all have done things of which we are not proud. Most of us have experience with at least two of these three things, but lacking one or more shouldn’t hurt your enjoyment of the film.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is populated by a very likable group of characters and the actors who play them. Michael Cera is often criticized for playing the same character over and over again. Sometimes, that criticism is justified, but not in this case. Cera, while playing a similar version of previous characters, gives Scott a unique perspective on his life and how he deals with the various threats Ramona’s exes pose. At various times he uses cunning, deception, sheer strength and skill or some combination of all of them to work his way through Ramona’s past loves. Cera truly shines in the role. He needs all the skill and ability he possesses to keep Kieran Culkin from stealing the movie out from under him whenever they share a scene. As the proudly slutty Wallace, Culkin one-line’s his way through every shot and makes the character one we’d like to see more of. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Ramona is far too cool to be with a geek like Scott; but she’s trying to leave part of herself in the past and it’s that past that keeps popping up in the form of her ex flames. Each former lover is more bizarre than the last and often appears at the most inopportune time. Everyone in the film, from the main characters all the way down to the folks with a single line, is perfectly cast and fleshes out this strange universe.

Much of the film owes it’s look to the video game world. Often, game graphics pop up on the screen, like when Scott goes to the bathroom and a “pee bar” appears over his shoulder. During the fights, more graphics show up like those in Mortal Kombat or Tekken. When an enemy is defeated, it bursts into coins. The more difficult the enemy, the greater the coin total. All of these added bits of flash and noise could have been very annoying, but in the world of Scott Pilgrim, it all makes perfect sense and adds enormously to the films’ visual appeal. The makers of superhero movies should take a long hard look at the film because it gets much of the more fantastical visuals right. The flying, the reactions to punches, the bodies flying through walls, all of it looked great. The movie also has a strong musical presence with a great deal of original music in the sound track. While proto-punk isn’t my favorite genre, the music was pretty good and in one scene is used as a weapon during a battle. Several songs on the soundtrack were written by Beck.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references. There are numerous fights, but none is bloody. Sexual content is minimal with most of it consisting of a scene between Scott and Ramona where we see her in underwear. There is only one drug reference that I recall and it was so fleeting as to be easily missed. Foul language is not very common and widely scattered.

While the film may not have had a big opening weekend at the box office, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” needs to be seen by as many people as possible. While the opening credits may cause a seizure in some, the movie is an enormous amount of fun with lots of action and a sound track that might get you interested in some of the local bands your friends have told you about. I’d suggest going with a big group and just letting the movie wash over you, accepting it for what it is: A graphic novel that’s come to life on the screen. Don’t look for any deep meaning or life lessons, just enjoy the ride. It’s worth it.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” gets a very enthusiastic five guitars out of five.

Five films are looking for your love and your money this week. Choose which film gets my cash and adoration (or hatred) by voting below.

Vampires Suck--Becca, an anxious, non-vampire teen, is torn between two boys in this comic spoof of teen angst, romance and vampire flicks.

Lottery Ticket--A young man wins $370 million in the lottery, but must survive a three-day holiday weekend before he can claim his prize.

Nanny McPhee Returns--Emma Thompson's magical nanny appears at the door of a harried young mother to teach her mischievous children some new lessons.

Piranha 3D--A sudden underwater tremor unleashes a prehistoric strain of man-eating fish, wreaking razor-toothed terror on spring break.

The Switch--Jennifer Aniston decides to become pregnant by inseminating herself, unaware that the sperm is from her best friend.

Stan’s Choice--Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

Have a question? Send it to stanthemovieman@att.net and follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan.