Scott Pilgrim (2010)

Director: Edgar Wright

Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman

Perhaps the hardest genre to translate into film seems to be video games. Pretty much every attempt made by Hollywood has resulted in either a bland nice try or a complete disaster. 20 years+ and I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the “Super Mario Bros.” movie. I hope some very high ranking studio heads lost their jobs over “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” a sequel that was so bad that it made the first MK film seem like a masterpiece by comparison. Don’t even get me started on the never-ending series of putrid “Resident Evil” movies. The list of bad video game-based movies is so long that I actually take pride in knowing that “The Legend of Zelda” has yet to be tarnished in this way. (Knock on wood!) Question: If it’s so hard to do a film that’s directly based on a specific game or series of games, then is there an alternative? Answer: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

The movie’s opening seconds clue us in on what kind of movie is about to take place. No, I’m not talking about the opening scene. I mean the Universal Studios logo which precedes the film. The usual Universal theme and logo are replaced by the kind you would see and hear on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Those of us who, like me, grew up on that system and the classic video games associated with it will smile a very wide grin when the modified studio logo comes up.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is the bass guitarist for a Toronto, Canada garage band called Sex Bob-omb (a name which makes more sense if you get the “Super Mario Bros.” reference). He lives with a gay roommate named Wallace, also his best friend. None of Scott’s friends quite understand his relationship with the 17-year old high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), nor his resistance to tell Knives when he’s lost interest in her. One fateful day, Scott meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an American girl who delivers a package via Scott is instantly smitten, yet also doesn’t mention to Ramona that he hasn’t officially broken up with Knives yet. No reason to think that will blow up in his face later on….

The movie’s main plot revolves around a Battle of the Bands competition sponsored by Gideon “G-Man” Graves (Jason Schwartzman) which Sex Bob-omb (with music/singing provided by Beck) is entered into. Around this same time, Scott is attacked by an ex-boyfriend of Ramona’s. His enemy, when defeated, explodes into a pile of coins. Although Scott is victorious, there are to be six other such battles in his future. Each has their own method of attack and powers which are also unique to them. The most absurd and hilarious of these has to be Evil Ex # 3: Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), who also happens to be the current boyfriend of Scott’s ex, Natalie “Envy” Adams (Brie Larson), and is the bassist for her band, The Clash at Demonhead. Todd’s powers come directly as a result of being vegan, which Scott cleverly finds a way around, although not before being smashed through a brick wall or two.

The acting in the film is way over-the-top but, for a movie that employs characteristics of comic books, video games and anime, this is a must. As endearing as the two leads are, the best performances in the film come from Kieran Culkin and Jason Schwartzman. Proving himself to be the most talented of the Culkin family, Kieran Culkin has come a long way from playing the bed-wetting Fuller McAllister from “Home Alone.” Wallace gets to play the part of the sage whom Scott comes to when he needs advice on how to proceed in his hero’s quest. He can be dickish sometimes, but always while making a very keen observation. He better than anyone else can see through Scott’s bullshit. Jason Schwartzman, a veteran of oddball smart comedies, has played the role of the weak, nerdy guy before, so it must have been a thrill to be the bad guy. Still a little nerdy, but definitely evil, G-Man is the Ganon to Scott’s Link. He’s the guy Scott has to go through to rescue the Princess/Ramona. Like any good “dungeon master,” he seems impossible to defeat until the correct strategy is learned.

The “Legend of Zelda” references don’t even end there. At different times in the film, hints of music from “Legend of Zelda” can be heard, including a dream sequence and also in a rather hilarious trip to the bathroom. Scott even comes face to face with his own shadow, just like in “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.” At one point, when Scott “dies” (before remembering the 1-UP “extra life” he’d acquired earlier), he is transported to what amounts to a GAME OVER screen. Little details like this make the classic gamer in me very happy.

I haven’t been the biggest fan of director Edgar Wright. I liked “Shaun of the Dead” well enough, “Hot Fuzz” was worth seeing once, and I admit to being more than a little disappointed that he never did expand upon his “Grindhouse” fake trailer for a 1970’s-style Hammer Films gothic horror movie entitled “Don’t.” There is no question in my mind that “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is his best work. It’s sad that it did so terribly in the theater, but that’s probably due to the fact that most people (myself included) didn’t know what the film really was when it was originally released. It’s now a cult classic, and deservedly so. There may never be a “Legend of Zelda” movie, and I’m okay with that. I still have “Scott Pilgrim” and the nostalgia the film creates for those games my generation played when we were kids.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    I didn’t realize it was adopted from a graphic novel! Huh! Should have known, though!

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