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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Time Out New York Project: Issue #776, August 12-18, 2010
Dir. Edgar Wright. 2010. PG-13. 112mins. Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman.
The titular world of Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is a small one after all, shaped entirely by video games, emo rock and arrested development (especially in matters of the heart). There’s no room for any real growth, just literalized level-ups that bring our hero incrementally closer to his hipster Princess Toadstool, Ramona Flowers (Winstead), whose seven exes form a sort of league of supervillains that Scott must conquer.
It’s supremely annoying to see the ups and downs of romance reduced to archer-than-arch line readings and bloodless mortal kombat. What’s more frustrating is that the film, adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s popular comic, is an endless visual delight. Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead; Hot Fuzz) gives it the full Frank Tashlin treatment: Aspect ratios shift, colors vividly pop, sounds get accentuated with cartoon text (THONK! R-R-R-R-R-RRRRING!). This busy, yet rigorously controlled, palette demands and deserves endlessly slathered praise.
But it’s all in service of hollow pleasure. Scott himself is more walking sight gag than character, and it doesn’t help that Cera is on adorably coy autopilot. (He did this sort of thing better in the underrated Youth in Revolt.) Winstead is wonderful, even if her raison d’être is to model a succession of neon-glow, primary-color hairdos. And the supporting cast certainly gives it their all — particularly Jason Schwartzman as big baddy Gideon, a music producer who seems partially modeled on Paul Williams’s maniacal Swan from Phantom of the Paradise. Whenever he’s onscreen, the movie’s obsession with childish things seems closer to pointed satire than willful submission. Otherwise, GAME OVER can’t come soon enough.—Keith Uhlich