As I mentioned to my beloved followers on Twitter late last week, I exited my own screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World convinced that director Edgar Wright’s style was perfectly matched with my own tastes. Wright’s films — everything from his work on Spaced to Shaun of the Dead to my very favorite buddy cop comedy Hot Fuzz — have all the right pieces to play perfectly to my own moviegoing disposition. His films have undeniable energy. This is oft referred to by people who don’t know any better as his ability to “play to the ADD generation,” but is more in line with Hitchcock’s knack for suspense. It’s just always there. Wright’s films are brisk and consistent because he doesn’t allow much room for downtime. The jokes are meticulously strung together to create not beats, but a constant stream of style and tone. I adore this in his films. I also love the way he casts the things.
So to say that Scott Pilgrim — based on a series of books filled with wry observations about culture as I’ve experienced it in my 26 years on the planet — is built for someone like me is an understatement. To me, it’s the perfect marriage of filmmaking style (Wright) and razor-sharp writing without the loss of character depth (comic creator Bryan Lee O’Malley). This may be the case for many of you. But what does it offer to the rest — the millions of folks not familiar with the books, whose interest might not be piqued by Wright’s name being attached — those in the world who don’t get excited about the opening Universal theme being done in an 8-bit version (it is, and it’s awesome). What reason does anyone have for seeing Scott Pilgrim vanquish seven evil exes in order to win the hand of his dream girl? I can think of at least five…
1. It’s More That Just a Movie for Nerdy Guys
I have a theory that what many moviegoers will take away from Scott Pilgrim is not just that it’s an interesting story about a lovable slacker with all sorts of pop-culture laden quirks. They will get more than action and comedy. At it’s core, the Scott Pilgrim saga is a great little love story. It’s about all the things — acceptance, rejection, getting over lost love and fighting for what you believe in — that relationships are all about. Or at least, the relationships we love to see personified on screen. I find it ironic, in a week that will see Julia Roberts Eat, Pray, Love her way into the hearts of women everywhere, that the film that is most geared toward the ladies is Scott Pilgrim. Mark my words, it’s for girls, too.
2. Michael Cera
“Aren’t you tired of seeing Michael Cera play the same old character?” I’ve been asked this question by 9 out of 10 people to whom I’ve recommended this movie over the last week. And I’ve got another theory: Scott Pilgrim is perhaps the role Michael Cera was born to play. And if he didn’t have all the baggage of playing similar characters — socially awkward slackers hopelessly charming their way into the hearts of ladies well outside their pay-grade — you’d never think twice about him being cast as Pilgrim. That said, his performance as this film’s hero is unlike anything you’ve seen from him yet. Scott Pilgrim isn’t a bumbling loser. He’s funny, charming and when he needs to be, very heroic. He’s also flawed. By the end you’re rooting for him, but along the way it’s nice to see him take a punch or two. (Special note to non-Cera fans: he does get his ass beat quite a few times throughout the film. Please feel free to derive sick enjoyment from this fact alone.)
3. Everyone Who Isn’t Michael Cera
In classic Edgar Wright fashion (can I say that now, after 3 films?), the supporting cast of Scott Pilgrim delivers. Sure, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an adorable object of affection. Her Ramona Flowers isn’t quite the well-rounded character as we saw in the books, but she’s still worth Pilgrim’s arduous journey. The evil exes are electric — everyone from the endlessly charismatic Chris Evans to pretty boy Brandon Routh to the palpably sleazy Jason Schwartzman. Kieran Culkin, as Scott’s roommate Wallace Wells, delivers the books’ best character with every bit of personality required. Aubrey Plaza uses moderate screen time to deliver a few choice moments. Anna Kendrick is Scott’s lovable, speed-talking sister. Ellen Wong is joyously clingy as Knives Chau. The list goes on and on. And that doesn’t include the cameos. If there was an award for most well-rounded, wholly entertaining cast in a movie — Scott Pilgrim wins, hands down.
4. Because You’re Due for Something That’s Simply Enjoyable
This has been the summer of cinematic discontent. Just about every film — big or small, highly anticipated or nicely surprising — has left audiences wanting for something. Save for, perhaps, Toy Story 3. Even Inception was like having a 12-pound bowling ball dropped on your chest at times. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is one of the most completely entertaining films of the summer. It doesn’t ask for much, as its premise is simple and much of its humor is right there on the surface, but it delivers quite a bit in return. It has all of the nuance and attention to detail that Edgar Wright’s fans have come to expect, but it’s the simple likability that will capture not just the attention, but the adoration of anyone who gives it a chance.
5. Because You’ve Already Seen It
This may be the most important reason for you to brave the wilderness of open civilization and give your local theater chain some of your hard-earned scrilla. Not since Fox Searchlight rolled out Juno have I seen a movie so widely pre-screened. It screened at Comic-Con, it’s screened for everyone with even a half-baked press credential (even PuppiesAndKittens.com, I’m told) and Edgar Wright’s been press touring like a mad man. Just about anyone who has been dying to get a glimpse at this movie has already seen it — for free. And 9 out of 10 of those people probably enjoyed the hell out of it. If that’s you, then you owe it to yourself and to the future of fine movies in general to see it again. This time, you should pay for it. Don’t just take your two hours of gratis entertainment and run. Support quality films. Only this time, bring three friends.