FOR THE first five minutes of Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, I thought: “I am waaaay too old for this movie.“ (That’s “waaaay” with 4 “a”s.)
My suspicion increased when an older couple walked out of the theatre, seemingly baffled. “I feel you,” I thought.
The movie’s early minutes are aggressively Quirky with a capital Qu. Not the naturalistic, observational quirkiness of, say, Juno, but rather a highly self-conscious Quirky – a rapidly cut mash-up of anime, arcade games, sitcoms, and of course the beloved source material, Brian O’Malley’s deceptively simple, black-and-white comics.
You’d think that would be right up my alley! Me, too. After five more minutes, I started to “get it,” but it was a slog to work up attraction for the antics of these slacker 20somethings. They seemed to be photocopies of characters, hitting beats in a script – a Quirky script! – without really touching hearts or nerves.
But, wait! There is hope for me. I did NOT follow my fellow old fogies out the door, and not just because, like the senior citizen I almost am, I didn’t want to waste $10.
Soon the unique lure of the Pilgrim-verse sucked me in, and by the end of the movie I was charmed, and sure I had seem something new in execution but classic in spirit. This is romantic comedy, after all, with its tropes and satisfactions, wrapped in the magic realism of fables and the frenetic, split-screen battles of manga.
In other words, it IS up my alley.
The turn for me was the introduction of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), blue-haired object of Scott’s affection and the bearer of gravitas from another movie altogether. Ramona has a look that’s at once doe-eyed and hard, betraying an existential sadness at unleashing her League of Seven Evil Exes on Scott. Her lingering question: Will Scott her be her 8th?
That decision falls to S.P. (Michael Cera, pitch perfect EveryGeek.) Though I’d be happier if he’d been given funnier lines early on – why would Ramona fall for this guy, unless niceness was her only criteria for picking a BF? – I can’t fault, and in fact applaud, Cera’s winning amalgam of Juno’s Paulie Bleeker and Superbad’s Evan. (Trivia: Superbad’s Evan had no last name.)
The concept of Everygeek is (like the movie’s studio) Universal. It is Scott Pilgrim versus the world, every day. In the movie, he faces with bravado those Evil Exes, metaphor for the minefield we all navigate in relationships, brought to life by director Edgar Wright in dizzying flights of CGI fantasy.
The Exes – among them, Chris Evans (Human Torch, Captain America) and Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”) – are fantastic. But my favorite is Brandon Routh (“Superman Returns”) pulverizing Scott with his “Vegan-diet-generated powers.” As Routh risks losing those powers by violating that diet, this vegetarian was LOLing and submerged in the Pilgrim-verse at last.
I’m waaaay old. That we know. But I ended up loving Scott Pilgrim, and remember enough of love, jealousy, and courtship choreographies to relate. I’m always enough of a fanboy to enjoy the movie’s comic-inspired look. In fact, its very comic-ness makes me suddenly want to channel Stan Lee, who might have summed up the movie’s appeal like this:
“There’s a little bit of Scott in us all, Pilgrim!”
Top: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Pic courtesy Universal Studios.