Filmnotes – November 2010

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I hate to tell you this, but you may be too old for “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”(Universal Pictures, 2010, 112 minutes). It’s a tongue-in-cheek romp through the world of comic books, videogames, garage bands, and young love. If Andy Warhol had been born in 1971 instead of 1921, this is the kind of film he would be making.

The film is based on a graphic novel. One of the challenges of transferring this genre to film is finding a way to project the atmosphere of the two-dimensional page. Director Edgar Wright does it effectively by using several techniques familiar to readers of graphic novels: inserting handprinted

signs to identify characters, spelling out sound effects when a telephone or doorbell rings, and moving characters from place to place without transition, the way graphic novels move abruptly from panel to panel. The result is, as in Warhol’s paintings, funny, funky, and

fun.The story is as simple as a video game narrative: in order to win the beautiful girl, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat her seven evil exes, who appear in different settings. It’s almost like entering new levels of a game. Scott is the bass player for a garage band and seems to have outgrown video games, but his past has prepared him well for battle. He even gets showered with

golden coins after each victory, and earns a do-over with a second life when all seems lost. Anyone under 40 will recognize the music of “Zelda,” one of the narrative video games that was popular in the ’90s, as Scott moves down a hallway during a quest.

Scott is accompanied by bandmates Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), Young Neil ( Johnny Simmons), and girl drummer Kim (Alison Pill); his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin); his cynical sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick); and the band’s 17-year-old groupie Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). The supporting cast provides the film’s most comedic moments.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is the funniest films I’ve seen all year — hip and cool, yet sweet and innocent. The dialogue is clever and witty, full of pop-culture allusions. It is funny without being raunchy or simple-minded. You may be too old to get it, but go see it anyway. It’s about time you found out what the latest generation is laughing at.

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