Monday, February 28, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Reviews of this movie were highly mixed, and given that so much of the video game culture it riffs on is stuff with which I am not very familiar, I wasn't sure if I'd like it. I was afraid I might feel on the outside of a lot of inside jokes. And I bet that there were some -- just reading the trivia on IMDb suggested a couple of allusions I missed. And I was afraid the stylistic elements would just make me feel old. Plus there's the comic books (and I'm sure everyone who read them groaned about how wrong the movie is -- and is currently groaning at me for calling them "comic books").

There were a few bits that felt clunky or off, but by and large, I found it delightful and funny. The movie pulls no punches at all at establishing its goofy style, and I suppose for some it could be off-putting. It might even have been for me if it had caught me in a different mood. But as long as you feel well-disposed to just going with it, it absolutely works.

After it was done, thinking back on it, I realized that it's analogous to a musical. In a musical, the story is going along and suddenly the characters break into song, or dance, or other production numbers; and no one, generally, seems to notice this; it's just part of how the world works. In this movie, instead of breaking into song, the story suddenly breaks into surreal video-game-inspired sequences, often (but not exclusively) fights. And everyone just goes with it; it's just the kind of thing that happens.

There's a lot more in the story than I expected from the trailers. There are characters wending their way through and I'm not really sure until the end where they're going to end up going. There are times I felt like I needed to make a chart to keep track of all the relationships between the various characters in a single scene (all sitting in one room staring at one another). But not in a bad way; I thought the film might be tidily linear given the premise (seven evil exes, in a sequence like a video game building to a Big Boss), but it's actually quite twisty and has a lot more room for characters to develop and go into directions that aren't immediately predictable.

And it ranges from funny to hilarious, as well as managing at times to be touching. Not that it's deep and involves serious acting and themes; it's mostly a light sugary confection. But it's not as much as you'd expect.

I was also surprised at seeing Michael Cera doing so many action sequences. Admittedly they were highly artificial in their choreography, but even so, they were quite physical, and I didn't know he did that sort of thing. I was a little disappointed that at no point did Kim (the disaffected red-headed drummer) get to even punch anyone. I think that would have been great. But most of the characters that should have gotten a moment like that, did get one.

All in all it was just a load of fun and wasn't at all disappointing. Maybe there were a few bits I didn't get but I never felt like I wasn't getting enough of it to be amused. I recommend the movie to anyone who feels like running with it. Don't question the surreal elements, just let them sweep you along.

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