What Am I Missing? Andy Burns On Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

This summer was one of big change for the Queen and I, what with the arrival of our daughter and all. We used to go to the movies all the time pre-baby, but with a new person in our midst our movie going ways have subsided for the most part (though we will find a way to see the latest Harry Potter, mark my words).

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=b0100-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1934964573&fc1=EFE6E6&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=BF0F20&bc1=100303&bg1=100303&f=ifrNo moviegoing meant we missed out on a few big flicks; in my mind, most notable was Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Shot and set in Toronto and based on the comic book by former Toronto resident Bryan Lee O’Malley, the six book graphic novel is a mash-up of hipster romance and video game references that’s become extremely popular in some circles. Having read the first two books, I’m not exactly sure why; the art is “ok”, as is the story, but I don’t see why the series has generated so much love. However, the fact that Edgar Wright, the brilliant British director behind Hot Fuzz, Shaun Of The Dead and the stellar BBC series Spaced signed on to direct the big screen adaptation of Scott Pilgrim meant that the film, staring Michael Cera as the title character, was going to be interesting at the very least.

Upon its release, though critically acclaimed, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World was a monster bob-omb at the box office, not even making back its budget of $60 million. Chalk it up to a few things – no matter what some may think, Michael Cera is not a movie star and has yet to prove he carries any weight at the box office. Secondly, the Scott Pilgrim comics are underground hits, which means that they resonate minimally outside of the comic book buying public. Thirdly, as great a director as Edgar Wright is and as wonderful as his films are, none of them were box office smashes in North America. And finally – the trailer never really explained what the movie was about – it just looked all busy and geeky. Which is kind of what the finished product is.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=b0100-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0043GAZYS&fc1=EFE6E6&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=BF0F20&bc1=100303&bg1=100303&f=ifrThis weekend, the Queen and I finally got around to seeing Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. For the most part, I think we enjoyed it. Michael Cera was far from his typical film self and showed some genuine depth. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Romana Flowers, the love interest, was suitably luminous. There were also strong turns from Chris (Captain America) Evans, Brandon (Superman) Routh and Jason (Hasn’t Played A Superhero But Did Play In Phantom Planet, The Band That Sang The Theme Song To The O.C.) Schwartzman. It was very cool to see Toronto on the big screen, including many of my current and former haunts. And from a technical standpoint, Scott Pilgrim is hands down Edgar Wright’s strongest directorial offering so far, with fun action sequences, lots of flashing lights  and some cool special effects.

However, the one thing that Scott Pilgrim Vs The World lacks that Wright’s other films don’t is a great script. It’s just a little to hip and cute for its own good. After much mulling, I can’t quite figure out what the movie wanted to be. It’s not nearly funny enough to be a comedy; there are some moments that had me chuckling (usually when the fantastic Kieran Culkin was on screen), but I never once laughed hard and outloud. And while it has sci-fi and fantasy elements to it, none of them shine through particularly brightly. Not that I need to put a label on everything I see or read. Not at all. But sometimes being able to define what you’re going for will give you a stronger sense of self – at least, I think the film would have been able to rely on more than just being cool and kinetic if it knew what it really was. That being said, if you wanted to argue that Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is at the end of the day a simple love story, I’d likely concede that observation. A love story between two not particularly likeable characters.

What’s interesting is that the people I know who have seen Scott Pilgrim Vs The World really seemed to love it. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I must admit that a few days after watching it I feel an urge to check it out again. Maybe it’s a film that sneaks up on you and merits multiple viewings to take in everything that’s happening on the screen. Or maybe I just want to find out what I’m missing. I’m really not sure.

What do you think?

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