What is going to happen to Michael Cera’s career when he really grows up? This is one of the things I found myself wondering about when my attention started wandering during Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. (Also: How can a movie so clearly directed at an audience with generational ADD drag on so? And when did I get so old?)
This is not to say that Mr. Cera is not good in his role of Scott Pilgrim, occupying almost every scene of the film. In fact, he’s excellent: wise enough to convey that he’s in on the joke, with perfect deadpan delivery. But what will happen to the man-boy when he’s all man and can no longer slouch about in baggy pants and hoodie sweatshirts with perpetually flushed cheeks?
What will happen to the man-boy when he’s all man and can no longer slouch about in baggy pants and hoodie sweatshirts, with perpetually flushed cheeks?
For those who aren’t familiar with the popular comic-book series, written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, on which the film is based, the story line goes a little something like this: Our young, Canadian, non-committal hero, who inexplicably has left a path of broken hearts in his wake, falls head over heels for a mysterious doe-eyed young woman with constantly changing hair color named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But in order to win her heart, he must defeat her seven evil exes. It’s a terrific premise and one that must work brilliantly in serialized form. However, when you’re 45 minutes into a two-hour film and you’ve only met two exes, you can’t help but start calculating how quickly the rest will be apportioned. Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) employs tons of clever visual tricks-including comic-book-esque “thonks” and “kapows” and video arcade-y “ka-chings”-but this only serves to distract the audience from engaging with any of the (many) characters’ plights. There’s an awful lot of exposition to muddle through at the start, and a bit of a mind-set adjustment to all of Mr. Wright’s visual whimsy.
But once that’s occurred, the bright colors and careful, playful art direction are easy on the eyes; a battle-of-the-bands subplot is surprisingly good, thanks to some compositions from Beck; and the acting and casting are generally terrific (though the supreme talents of Alison Pill seem a bit wasted in a small role). Kieran Culkin particularly shines in the role of a sardonic gay roommate; Anna Kendrick continues to prove that she makes surprising and smart film choices; and the film’s energy level gets a giant boost when Jason Schwartzman shows up as the most evil of the evil exes. Which brings us to our next questions. Was Jason Schwartzman Michael Cera before there was a Michael Cera? And is there a difference between Rushmore‘s ’90s antihero Max Fisher and 2010’s current emo slacker model, in which case there might yet be hope for Mr. Cera to transition from man-boy to man? N.Y.U. film students, get crackin’!
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Running time 112 minutes
Written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Mark Webber, Alison Pill, Jason Schwartzman, Anna Kendrick
2 Eyeballs out of 4