Photo by Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (PG-13)
2 1/2 out of 4 stars
Aimed squarely at ADHD-prone 20-somethings, "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is Hollywood at its most unchecked and cannibalistic. Based on both a video game and a series of graphic novels, the movie moves so fast, its loopy and incoherent plot becomes almost irrelevant. Before you have the time to question any logic, it's on to the next scene.
If "SPvTW" had been the work of a rookie filmmaker, everyone -- even its detractors -- would consider it to be better than it is. It takes a lot of skill to keep this many balls in the air at once, and on a technical level co-writer/director Edgar Wright never once loses control. Few filmmakers have the level of wit, daring and confidence Wright shows here and if he followed the blueprint of his own past two efforts, everyone would have been better served.
With "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," Wright took two conceptually thread-bear genres (zombie flicks and cop-buddy movies) and turned them on their collective ear. There was a lot going on in those two films but Wright put story first and didn't rely so much on action and CGI. He took his time and made sure the humans got their chance to shine. Here the humans are just props and Wright has the attention span of a gerbil after a double espresso.
Offering contrast to Wright's mania for all the wrong reasons is leading man Michael Cera in the title role. Arguably the most dramatically challenged actor alive, Cera plays the exact same character (himself) in every movie. With a whispery, cracking voice that suggests he's still going through puberty, Cera has two expressions: boringly bewildered and catatonically befuddled.
Cera's character here is both a musician and a superhero -- two passionate cinematic archetypes that need something other than stone-faced indifference. This guy has yet to laugh, cry, grimace or get angry on screen. There are hundreds of other actors who would have been better suited for this role.
Starring opposite Cera and faring slightly better is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona, a mysterious Riot-Grrl type who changes her hair color with the same frequency as her clothes. Based on Winstead's few past performances, it appears that Ramona is supposed to be almost as dull and lifeless as Scott by design.
In keeping with virtually every comic book or action movie ever made, the movies' sizzle is delivered by the supporting case. On one side is Scott's band mates, an underage, Catholic high school-attending Asian semi-love interest and his atypical gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin). Every time Wallace opens his mouth hilarity follows and he is by far the most interesting thing going on in the movie.
Normally in productions featuring a superhero protagonist there is a much-more-fun-to-watch evil foil, maybe two. In "SPvTW" there are seven and five of them get passing grades. As good as they are there's simply too many; none stick around long enough for their characters to develop. For reasons better explained by the film, Scott must battle each to the death. The good news on that front is that each death is by a different method and for reasons never explained the corpses turn into coins.
In perhaps overstating the obvious, "SPvTW" is a movie that will be better appreciated by its rabid cult following, most of whom were in attendance at the preview screening -- along with Wright and Cera. It was a veritable love-fest.
For the uninitiated, "SPvTW" provides just enough angry humor and wing-nut action to offset the nonsense and the inert performances of the romantic leads. Considering this is August, you could do a lot worse. (Universal)