Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World


When Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World begins, the Universal Studios logo we’ve seen countless times has been replaced by one of Super Nintendo pixels. Accompanied by a Casiotone version of theme music, it speeds hearts among the audience, assuming they’ve been beating for thirty years or less. At this point you’ll be one hundred percent sold on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World The Movie.

What follows may only be comprehensible in the mind of its creator, or somewhere in the pages of his comicbook. Scott Pilgrim not only lacks substance in its stylistic approach, but lacks it completely. This movie is best compared to the nutritional facts on the back of an energy bar, shamelessly tricking you into believing you won’t still be hungry. Be warned: you might choke to death without something to wash it down.

Before we even get a read on the title character, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is tearing off its shirt and flashing its plump, artificial visual style in our faces.  For those who haven’t seen the trailer, it’s sort of what you’d imagine a videogame to look like if the character models are replaced by real people and and the number of levels are reduced to one: Toronto.

The dials for neon lights and discordant music are both turned to full volume so even if you enjoy the oversaturated aesthetic, your senses will grow accustomed and there will be an hour of movie left. “KAPOW” sprouts from Allison Pill’s ear as she pretends to shoot herself. It’s the first of three times, or many more if you watch commercial television. Cards explaining the characters and scenery pop up far too quickly to read them, and videogame imagery interjects real life situations. The fact that they all seem to be derived from a few casual gaming sources makes me wonder: If this is a period piece, why are they sending text messages?

Oh, it’s a new retro thing. People must be buying up cartridges of The Legend of Zelda as some sort of ironic statement. Is that part of the Hipsterism? The movement certainly gets a lot of flak for being inauthentic and that’s how I would describe this movie. I was never able to figure that out either, but I will say this: Far more tiresome than any counterculture are those who seek unity by jointly railing against it. Scott Pilgrim somehow falls into both of these categories.

It’s a transparent prayer for popular appeal, hiding behind self-important misuse of satire. You’ll think you’re watching a trippy comedy with actors that didn’t understand the material, until the moment its target is recognized (even those furthest removed will see it in the dopey Vegan character). Playing a sitcom laugh-track over a scene worked in Natural Born Killers but then it was done. Pilgrim is all bark and no Charlie Bartlett bite.

The plot is largely an afterthought, but focuses on a group of friends in pursuit if a record deal. The venues look nearly identical and the music scene never feels alive. It’s just bigger stages, not the nightlife navigation of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Our anti-hero, Scott, is more interested in pursuing Ramona Flowers, an American export with colorful hair in place of a personality to communicate “lovable.” Welcome back, Eternal Sunshine of the Fickle Bitch.

Like Scott’s friends, Ramona is a flat soda stereotype. Even the sardonic should have a pulse, but in the strongest moments, Scott’s other girlfriend, Knives Chau is the only player with emotion. If actress Ellen Wong had a handle on the comedy side of her character, there might have been a best supporting nomination in here. As far as casting is concerned, the only other proper mark is in a brief cameo appearance, which director Edgar Wright has always been good at. These are cherries of increasingly melted sundaes after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Scott fights Ramona’s evil exes like they’re powered up Mega Man boss fights, and this visual effects heavy hand-to-hand combat is surprisingly well done, usually the lowest point for action films.  Strangely, while compensating for Ramona’s dark past, Scott’s own numerous flaws never amount to much in actualized opposition, and so the film puts no weight on his character development.

Overall Score: 5.00 – Bad. (5s are movies that either failed at reaching the goals it set out to do, or didn’t set out to do anything special and still had many flaws. Some will enjoy 5s, but unless you’re a fan of this genre, you shouldn’t see it, and might not even want to rent it.)

I’m now far less likely to pick up the comic on which this movie was based, and am slightly concerned for the people who have been pushing it on me.