Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - December 3, 2010

Ready to Rent

by Joe Ramirez

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Universal DVD & Blu-Ray

1 hr 53 mins

Director: Edgar Wright

Director Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is the ultimate ADD movie, a tone poem steeped in the language of sound bytes and electronic cues. I would go as far to say that it plays like a representation of a parent's worst nightmare about their kid's recreational video game and mp3 exposure, their world shown in blips and Technicolor widgets framed by one quest after another, with no responsibility in sight. This is the sly joke of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels on which this movie is based, with Scott Pilgrim infusing his media-soaked apocalyptic imagination into the humdrum Toronto life he slugs through. It's "Walter Mitty" for the 21st century; but, unlike Thurber's quintessential underdog, Scott Pilgrim also has an electronic and sometimes jerky heart at his center, a bratty tin man for the digital age.

It's fitting that Edgar Wright should enjoy this character, given his gift as the enfant terrible of the new pop cinema. Wright, whose collaborations with actor Simon Pegg (the new Scotty in "Star Trek") have brought us Scott Pilgrim's distant cousin in the form of their brilliant "Spaced," a 1999 BBC series that chronicled the exploits of flatmate-cum-slackers (remember that term?) Tim and Daisy, whose lives are riddled with unemployment woes, video game addiction and comic book fantasies. "Spaced" was the herald for this new age, whereas "Scott Pilgrim" is the status quo. In both we sense that Edgar Wright is searching for something very new, speaking at a million miles an hour because of the ideas he needs to exorcise, with movie technology just now catching up with his harried imagination.

That imagination is evident from the very first frame of Scott Pilgrim, where we are introduced in a Scorsese-styled vignette to the players in Scott's life. We find 21-year-old Scott (the anemic Michael Cera) slumming though life as a guitar player for "Sex-B-Bomb" (their drummer calls out the name before every song, stutter on the "B" and all), but without a sense of direction, and only the vaguest inclination of needing one. Scott lives with his gay best friend Wallace Wells (aptly deadpan Kieran Culkin) who has a habit of wondering about the frame without moving, a long list of ex-girlfriends, and one pseudo-current named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) whose teenage crush brings her to hysterics every time Scott plays. When blue-bobbed Envy Adams shows up at a show, however, Scott instantly falls, much to his dismay, because he must now face her seven deadly exes in a battle against mutual jealousies.

"Scott Pilgrim" almost succeeds in its hyperbolic fantasies but exhausts itself toward the final act probably due to digital overload. Director Wright throws every type of obscure movie and music reference (my favorite being a small sound byte from 1980's "Flash Gordon" of Ming the Merciless' ring of power) at the audience, along with visual exclamations from comics as well (the band's instruments emanate animated sound waves). This kitsch is pretty cool for a while, but ultimately it becomes a little grating if only due to a sense of restlessness at the heart of the movie. For what it's worth, however, "Scott Pilgrim" packs a lot of movie in under two hours, and a few points for being hip enough to rent it, which is bound to impress a few kids along the way.

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