'Scott Pilgrim' wins the day
I'm going to throw this out there, and with a bit of Big
Lebowski wisdom: Edgar Wright is the man for his time and place.
As one of this century's most clever directors, his work is visceral, compelling and hands-down hilarious; it's also wonderfully thoughtful, capturing the essence and social struggles of the generations his films depict.
Shaun of the Dead is a tale of growing up, love and zombies; Hot Fuzz is a story of finding oneself amid a string of bloody murders and police intrigue; and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a love story of self-discovery, entrenched in pop culture fantasy.
What ties them all together, apart from Wright's distinctive style, is they speak volumes for their characters' respective generations, as they see life through pop culture goggles, be it zombies, cop cliches or video games.
Scott Pilgrim, though, represents one of Wright's bolder moves, a headfirst trip into its characters' fantastical interpretation of reality, infused with video game lore and comic book know-how, where stylized fights come out of nowhere, defeated villains burst into coins, and enough points earn a much-needed 1-up.
It's visually striking and quick on the draw, shooting jokes that alternate between subtle and in-your-face, via a stellar cast of characters who deliver laughs in bulk.
Michael Cera (TV's Arrested Development) brings his deadpan humor to Scott Pilgrim, a 23-year-old slacker/bassist living in Toronto, Canada.
Along with pals Stephen Stills (Mark Webber, Broken Flowers), Kim Pine (Alison Pill, Milk) and Young Neil (Johnny Simmons, Jennifer's Body), the egotistical Scott plays in the band Sex Bob-Omb (one of many Super Mario Bros. references), while avoiding ex-girlfriends and living with his "cool gay roommate," Wallace (Kieran Culkin, The Cider House Rules).
Scott seems content being between jobs, even dating a 17-year-old Japanese schoolgirl, Knives Chau (newcomer Ellen Wong), for sheer novelty, but all that changes when he meets the literal girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Live Free or Die Hard).
Described by peers as unattainably cool, having left New York City after a relationship went sour, Ramona seems out of Scott's league to everyone but Scott. An awkward date turns sweet, only for the freshly smitten Scott to learn that Ramona carries emotional baggage - namely seven evil exes whom Scott must defeat to win her hand.
I'd say this is where the fun starts, but truth be told, Scott Pilgrim is fun from the beginning. Cartoonish special effects woven into the narrative bring colorful flair to an already vibrant story, and Wright masterfully melds pop culture references - sitcoms, music, comics (it's based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels) and, of course, video games - with Scott's off-kilter view of the world.
That involves his face-offs with Ramona's hilariously vengeful exes, dating all the way back to junior high.
They include the flamboyant Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha, Fair Game), who challenges Scott while dancing a Bollywood number with hipster zombie girls; Todd (Brandon Routh, Superman Returns), who derives superpowers from a mystic vegan diet; Lucas (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four), a movie megastar who fights Scott with an army of stunt doubles; and smarmy, final "end guy" Gideon (Jason Schwartzman, Rushmore), who happens to be the record producer sought by Sex Bob-Omb.
On that note, and similar to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim features plenty of well-choreographed action. Not to say that Shaun and Fuzz were understated, but Pilgrim's action is zealously over the top, paying loving homage to its many genres with stylish oomph.
Wright's imaginative direction brings new life to what, at its core, is basically a traditional love story, but with a surprising level of depth for what's shaping to be this summer's most refreshingly original film.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.