Wanna have a good time?
Go see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and get ready for some serious laughs. Although the film is aimed at the graphic novel, video-game, indie rock market, it has appeal for anyone who is even the least bit familiar with the aforementioned. In fact, one twenty-something gentleman I spoke with after the preview showing said it was “like a history of all video games from the beginning”. If you don’t play them, your children probably do. And unless you’ve been in a coma, you’ve at least heard of them.
The film is actually based on Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series and it plays like one. There is often text on the screen to reveal a character’s thoughts, clarify something he/she said, or to emphasize sound effects. In this sense, it reminded me of the Pop art and Op art of the 1960’s -- very nostalgic! Of course, you have to just go with the extreme visual style of the film; if you’re expecting something realistic, you will be disappointed.
The story line follows Scott as he pursues his dream girl, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), only to find that he must defeat her seven evil exes to date her. Ramona skates literally through his dreams and into his life. Michael Cera plays Scott with his characteristic shy-boy charm. He’s a 22-year-old, garage-band member, currently “between jobs”, who has a 17-year-old girlfriend – much to the chagrin of his age-appropriate friends. The girlfriend, Knives Chau, is skillfully portrayed by Ellen Wong in her first screen role. I couldn’t take my eyes off her when she was on screen. Scott has taken the easy way out after being painfully dumped by his former girlfriend. Except when he’s playing bass for the Sex Bob-Ombs, he wanders aimlessly around Toronto or slumps in his gay roommate’s apartment. Kieran Culkin plays Wallace Wells, the roommate, as a slightly jaded, boyfriend stealer who speed texts all new developments in Scott’s life to his sister Stacey (Anne Kendrick). Stacey believes it is her job to jolt Scott out of his rut and into a “real” life. However, it takes Ramona to do the job. Not only does Scott’s interest in Ramona inflame her evil exes, it creates a deadly triangle with Knives who will do anything to keep her “man.”
Of the evil exes, several stand out. Scott’s encounter with the first ex, Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) introduces the audience to the game-style fighting that occurs throughout the film. Yes, Scott has to man-up and actually do battle. Chris Evans plays Lucas Lee -- obnoxious action film actor and evil ex #2 -- in an over-the-top, very funny sequence. Brandon Routh’s portrayal of evil ex Todd Ingram is especially entertaining. For Scott, Todd Ingram is a particularly heinous ex because he’s the bass player in Scott’s ex-girlfriend’s band. He’s a vegan with special vegan-induced powers whom Scott has to defeat using mental gymnastics since he cannot physically resist vegan powers. The intriguing and extremely angry ex Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman) shows up from Ramona’s “bi-curious” period. The final showdown features the brilliant Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Gordon Graves who has a strangle-hold on Ramona’s little-demonstrated feelings. Does the better man win? You’ll have to see for yourself!
I was fortunate enough to get to interview three of the actors -- Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brandon Routh, and Kieran Culkin. Besides Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has the most screen time. She said that she was in Toronto for six months of filming, but was able to keep her performance fresh because the arrival of each “ex” team brought new energy to the base group. I asked each actor what the most difficult part of his/her role was, and for Winstead, it was the physicality of the fight scenes – especially her showdown with Knives. She suffered a couple of shoulder separations and an eye injury, so it was quite a physically demanding role. For Brandon Routh, it was learning to play bass guitar. Kieran Culkin didn’t have to fight anybody or learn to play an instrument, so I asked him if his role was a piece of cake. He didn’t deny it! They were a charming bunch – as are the characters they play.
There’s something for everyone in this film. If you don’t like the visuals, there’s the music, which is outstanding. If you don’t like the music, there’s the humor. If you don’t think it’s funny, you probably need resuscitating. The audience at the preview applauded at the end. In other words, you’ll have a good time.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD opens in theaters everywhere on August 13, 2010.