Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Scott Pilgrim is a difficult movie for me to review. I actually dreaded writing this review because I imagine there will be much skewering heading my way – but I have my own ideology when it comes to movie reviewing, so that’s all there is to that.

Why is it a difficult movie for me to review? Because although I recognize that technically it is a great film, I just didn’t like it very much.

The movie is based on a series of graphic novels, which I have never read. The story is about a young man of 23 named in the title (played by Michael Cera). He lives in Toronto with a gay roomate, is in a band, is “between jobs” and suffered a devastating break up a year ago with a girl who went on to be a major rock star. In the meantime (and on the rebound) he’s dating a 17 year old Asian high school girl (Ellen Wong playing Knives Chow). He’s a bass player in the three person band called the Sex Bob-Ombs.

Things seem pretty directionless for him personally until he literally meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. She’s from NYC, dresses funky, colors her hair in primary colors and rollerblades around town. Despite the fact that he’s with the adoring 17 year old Knives, he’s completely smitten by Ramona and is determined to woo his way into Ramona’s heart.

Alas as it turns out, to win her heart he must battle her “7 evil exes” (not to be confused with “7 ex-boyfriends”). Once this begins, the film shifts from the seemingly “real” world (albeit one where labels pop up on the screen describing characters) to one where Scott and those he must battle are possessed of video game-themed superpowers.

Let me get to the good stuff… Edgar Wright has made what could be called a game-changer film – the whole concept of it, the flashy visual effects (not only the fight scenes, but the combination with graphics, animation and comic-book style captioning I haven’t seen since the Adam West Batman TV series) and the fight scenes. Note to future superhero movie directors: Sit down and watch the one on one battles in this film over and over, until they sink in.

There’s witty humor and there’s dry humor, and there is some depth to be found in the characters. Unfortunately, most of it is found in the supporting characters and not the leads.

The “exes” are… and forgive me for using this word, but it applies… delicious in their portrayals of Ramona’s dumpees. So incredibly campy and over the top that they’re really quite funny. My favorite was Chris Evans, with eyebrows arching so high they looked like they were controlled by animatronics. Brandon Routh, still looking in Superman-shape is also good as the guy who gains his superpowers by being a pure vegan.

Ellen Wong gives a tender then suitably angry performance as the girl dumped by Scott, but the character with the most depth in the film is Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells, Scott’s promiscuously gay roomate. He feels like the most “real” person in the movie in an ocean of extreme caricatures and washed out personalities. Mark Webber and Allison Pill also give good performances for the limited amount of time they have on screen.

Michael Cera plays his character so low key for the most part, that Pilgrim seems to be on Prozac, Valium, or both. Inexplicably, he’s a babe magnet – one with a fear of commitment who’s left a series of broken-hearted girls in his wake. Based on the character as presented – this makes no sense. I will say one thing I got a kick out of was watching Michael Cera as action hero in his fight scenes – so incongruous as to fry your brain cells.

Then there’s Ramona – while played with much subtlety by the beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead, she also has left a wake of destruction in the hearts of many ex-lovers. She seems wise beyond her years (or just weary at a young age), she also seems like someone who would dump you shortly after you thought you won her heart.

While this is a story of a boy learning to become a man and take responsibility for his actions, the “learning moment” seemed pale instead of defining, and not something that was life changing in a deeply significant way. Yes, it’s a love story – but to use the vernacular, in the end it’s weak sauce.

If based on the trailer and commercials you’re thinking of bringing your kids, be aware that there are a few scenes of a sexual nature in the film, both hetero and gay – more hinting than anything else, but just something to be aware of. And there’s a running joke about f-bombs being said but bleeped out with a black band across the mouth of the person saying them.

While I recognize the artistry of the film, I didn’t much care about the main characters or their story, so I can’t personally give it a glowing recommendation. From what I’ve heard, in the books, Scott Pilgrim is a more engaging and deeply rich character – too bad that didn’t make it into the film.

Much like The Expendables which opens this weekend, I think Scott Pilgrim will split audiences – there will be some who absolutely love it, and others who either just plain won’t like it or just won’t “get it.” Some will feel a sense of connection to Cera’s journey as Pilgrim, either as someone who’s going through what they’re going through right now, recently or a long time ago – while others will just find him kind of a distant, forgettable character and will be left saying “that’s it?” at the end of his journey.

Count me in the latter group.

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Scott Pilgrim vs the World trailer:

If you’ve seen the film, visit our Scott Pilgrim spoilers post if you’d like to discuss the film without worrying about ruining it for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Our Rating:


3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)