Review Date: 02/25/2014
Rating: 4/5 Peanuts.
In a Nutshell:
Unabashedly silly, subversively funny and surprisingly thoughtful, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World tells the true story of the lost members of the millennial generation, except for all the fanciful, fictional nonsense.
One of my secret guilty pleasures of any entertainment medium is meta-humor, especially when it breaks the so-called fourth wall. While not quite at Deadpool levels of self-awareness, Pilgrim fully flies in the face of much of the conventional wisdom of filmmaking. From the moment the Universal intro played in all of its 8-bit glory, I knew I was thoroughly hooked on whatever it was I was about to see.
Based on the fantastic graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Pilgrim tells the tale of the titular Scott Pilgrim, a lovable loser played by a surprisingly watchable Michael Cera, as he attempts to woo the “it girl” Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Unbeknownst to Scott, in order to win Ramona he must literally fight for her hand as he progresses through a veritable gauntlet of her “seven evil exes” in a format which very literally resemble the stages of a classic arcade fight game.
And that, quite simply, is exactly what I love about the film. Referencing numerous touchstones from the formative years of my youth, Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Pilgrim is fully aware of what it is – a movie about members of the media-consumption generation ripped from the pages of a comic book, which was itself styled after classic 80’s/90’s video games like Zelda, Tony Hawk and Mortal Kombat. But compared to the D.C. comic-films, which take themselves entirely too seriously, or even the more light-hearted Marvel films which have done so well recently, Pilgrim is the ADHD-riddled slacker younger brother back from a semester of clown school. There are direct references to Virtual Fighter / Mortal Kombat whenever an “evil ex” is encountered, the narrator audibly reads scene transitions and announces the victor of the evil ex fights “K.O.!”, there are 1960’s-era Batman “Pows” during action sequences and Scott even gains an extra life which enables him to restart from a checkpoint. This film screams Nintendo was my nanny and Indie/Alt-rock my nursery rhyme at every turn, and oozes immaturity from its pores, but it does so in the sweetest, most well-intentioned way possible.
And indeed, it is the morality of Pilgrim which serves as its saving grace, elevating it from modern camp to something approaching legitimacy. Scott learns incredibly valuable lessons about personal responsibility, emotional maturity, balanced interpersonal relationships, self-acceptance and even “The ‘L’ word” (and no, not “Lesbians” as he believes at first). I won’t give away any plot elements in this review – there’s little enough as it is beyond the “courtship” I already mentioned – but suffice it to say that as Scott progresses through the various “levels” of the film (and don’t even get me started on the seven-circles of hell metaphors) he clearly also progresses along the learning curve of maturity.
So go, see this film. It’ll put a smile on your face unless you’re entirely too old or too dead inside to relate to it.