August 27, 2010

Dads Movie Night: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Did you ever play that game "The Movie Of My Life"? I went to school with a guy who looks just like Michael Cera.
Let's start with the skin: it's not so much that his skin has NO pigment, it's more that the skin once knew the light of day, but he's been secluded for many years in... a cave, or the dark side of the moon, or Canada, so his skin is now a marble gray color. His elbows and knees are knobby, the knuckles are pink, there's a comical lack of a chin (which the nose makes up for), and the hair. Oh the hair. Scott Pilgrim's hair is a unkempt thatch of thick brownness which is the utter despair of said Mr. Pilgrim.
This collision of awkwardness, embodied by Mister Hooded Sweatshirt himself, Michael Cera, is one of the enduring highlights of Scott Pilgrim vs The World: Pilgrim is the hero of the movie. Pilgrim endures ass kickings, brick-wall hole-making, steel beam-denting, and he not only survives, he returns in equal measure and destroys his enemies.
The premise of the movie is simple: what if our romantic and emotional battles were actual battles? And what if you are a total postmodern, 21st century baby who was born with a game controller in your hand, and you know the Super Mario Bros theme better than your national anthem? That's this movie. It's a treat to live in a world where a pasty stuttering geek can win epic battles thanks to his pure spirit, his love, and his nice-guyness... even if he loses a bass guitar solo duel!
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Grindhouse) is simply a quintessential beauty. She doesn't even have to try hard. Kieran Culkin, last seen drinking too much Pepsi ("he's gonna wet the bed!") in Home Alone, is perfect as the wry gossipy roommate who's gay, but doesn't have to be, to be terrific.
I also love Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation), as a brittle frenemy, and the rest of Pilgrim's band (Sex Bob-omb): newcomers Alison Pill (the caustic ex-girlfriend/drummer), Mark Webber (the emotional guitarist 'Stephen Stills'), and Johnny Simmons (the simple but kind roadie "Young Neil").
Director, producer, and co-screenwriter Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) lives in this world. He breathes it. He soaks the world of the movie in console gameland effortlessly. Wright's bag of magic tricks is effortless. Circa 1999, Wright produced and directed a TV comedy for BBC called "Spaced", about a group of underemployed twenty-somethings, whose love for movies and video games envelops their daily life. Spaced serves as kind of a proto-template for SPvTW, and I strongly recommend it. There are 14 episodes total, available on a two-disc DVD set.
The movie is paced like a rocket shot out of a cannon, on board the Concorde: it keeps moving and moving, and even the parts where no one's being disintegrated move along at a nice clip. The wit does not slow down to let the slowest 10% of the audience catch up: even the fastest mind will miss some of the fun the first time. Much like Hot Fuzz, this movie will reward repeat viewing.
The music is terrific, the dialog is smart and catchy, the costumes are cool, especially for Canada, and the video-game style visual enhancements are subtle enough, also varied and inventive. WARNING: If you were born before, say, 1969, you may hate this movie. I was born in 1972 and I'm giving it an A grade, even if I prefer first-person shooters and driving games over chopy-socky fighting.
THEATER NOTES: I went to see SPvTW at the Somerville Theater with new Dad George D, who enjoyed his much-needed night off! Apparently this movie is based on a comic book, or graphic novel, because George and I were literally surrounded by super-nerds who LOVED the movie, who hooted and hollered appreciatively every time something cool, or something faithful to the source material happened. There were patchy beards and overlong hair every where! (NOTE: I saw it again September 5 with my lovely wife)
TRAILERS: We saw a teaser trailer for a SMURFS movie. Oh. My. God it looks terrible. It's not as if the Smurfs are some sacred part of my cultural heritage, but does anyone really want to see this? I guess if they made TWO Chipmunks movies, and a Marmaduke movie, anything's possible.