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movies / August 15, 2010


CT

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a financial flop so far, I don’t know why exactly. It’s aimed directly at the prized demographic of Young People Who Still Go to Theaters to See Movies If Anyone Does, In Order to Get Out of the House. But maybe it really only appeals to a smaller niche group, Young Geeks Who Watch Movies on Their Computers, Alone?

Meanwhile, the general public turned out to see The Expendables, which is no doubt rotten, but who cares? I almost saw that instead, myself. It features about fifteen action stars plus Mickey Rourke, and it’s called The Expendables. Enough said.

And the usual horde of dupes went to see that cheesy food/spirituality/sex-tourism movie, Eat Pray Love, proving once again that old Abe Lincoln was right: you can fool some of the people all of the time.

But back to Scott Pilgrim. In wondering about the movie’s relative unpopularity, there’s also the director to consider, Edgar Wright. His other movies so far are pretty niche-y as well, genre parodies that are so fond and fixated on genre particulars they don’t get the big box-office play they deserve, though they become beloved on DVD: Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Hot Fuzz is an interesting case. It starts off spoofing big, absurdly violent American action films, which everybody understands. But then it folds in a general parody of all literary/filmic works about quaint English rural community life and how unexpectedly sinister it really is—The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Wickerman, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, that kind of thing. Who likes both of those things enough to see them mashed together in one movie?

hot-fuzz

Well, I was there opening day, saying, “For ME? Aw, shucks, you shouldn’t have!” Nice empty theater, plenty of seats to put my coat on, though I guess it did fine in the long run.

That’s why I went to see Scott Pilgrim, because of my affection for the works of Edgar Wright (and his usual partner in parody, Simon Pegg). I didn’t know anything about the graphic novels it’s based on, by some guy named Bryan Lee O’Malley, and I hated the few images I’ve seen from it since. Ghastly cute-looking crap!

scott-pilgrim-cera-wright

And cuteness is indeed a problem with this film. In it, young people are as sweet and harmless as baby ducks, which, as we know, is generally not the case in real life. Before they grow that empathy lobe in their brains that will be yet another factor in making their middle-aged years poignantly miserable, most young people are cold, narcissistic, and ruthless without even knowing that they are, because they also cry easily.

And ironically, that’s the subject matter of Scott Pilgrim: the damage young people do to each other in their romantic entanglements. Our calf-like hero (played by Michael Cera, of course), is technically a post-adolescent, between jobs, but benefiting from the cultural cachet of playing bass in a band. He starts to develop painful empathy-buds due to the sudden blowback from all his past meanness and betrayals while chasing a new girl, the worldly Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). His apparently hopeless struggle to defeat her “seven evil exes” in mortal combat is all part of the agony of personal growth. “I think I just learned something,” he laments after a harsh defeat, sitting alone in an afterlife desert purgatory. “But unfortunately now I’m dead.”

michael-cera-and-mary-elizabeth-winstead-in-scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world

It’s all made adorable and harmless, in other words. He isn’t really dead. Everything can be fixed and forgiven. The battles against the evil exes are fantasy emotional battles with the number of direct-hit points adding up video-game style and campy “POW!” impact sounds spelled out over the superhero punches. You can see what the filmmakers are going for: young lives feel epic when you’re living them, and the movie’s aesthetic is Comical Teen Expressionism, with Scott’s inner life organizing the entire visual and aural world. So the camera’s hopping and skipping and sliding all over the place in Scott’s various levels of reality, from his superhuman fights against evil exes to roommate problems in his drab apartment, from his bickering band practice sessions to fantasy-success scenes playing huge gigs in packed nightclubs, from his dreams of the perfect girl to trudging through the numbing cold of his snowbound Toronto neighborhood with her on a bad first date, etc.

scott-pilgrim-spoilers

Layered over all of this is post-production computer-age noodling: cute pop-up icons, details in filmed scenes circled in white, with little arrows pointing at them and identifying comments, that sort of thing.

This is okay, this is no doubt as it should be. Movie inventiveness should be all over this stuff, using everything, pulling from all media. In fact, it seems kind of belated, finally getting around to obvious pop culture effects and packaging them for the young’uns. They loved it at Comic-Con!

But it seems like the non-Comic-Con-goers don’t love it. Does it seem pandering? Are they sick of the bleating, narrow-shouldered Michael Cera type-casting? Do they dislike having their sense of leading epic lives pointed out for laughs, especially in the grandiose form that is cinema?

Hell, I don’t know. This movie’s not for ME. I was amused in a maternal kind of way for a while, but I felt pretty wan by the end, like I’d been in the theater a long, long time. When Jason Schwartzman finally showed up as the ultimate evil ex, now an “older man” though still as short and oddly malformed as back when he played the kid in Rushmore, I was ready to claw my way out into the light and not see any more youth movies for a while.

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31 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. CapnMarvel  |  August 16th, 2010 at 5:25 am

    The previews made it look ever so stupid, the latest in a long line of similar teenage superhero crap. ‘Kick Ass’ anyone? ‘The Losers’? Engh.

    Michael Cera is this generation’s Elliot Gould. Awkward. Untalented. Horrific to look at. Constantly in the theaters.

  • 2. JoJoJo  |  August 16th, 2010 at 8:16 am

    The Expendables reached and touched that fanboy nerve more seductively. White man nerds can more easily envision themselves killing browns and making bro-fists than making social successes. Scott Pilgrim tries with it’s VIDEOGAMES! aesthetic but it’s just too alien for ’em. They don’t want to relive their “Scott Pilgrim” years which were miserable if they’re not already still in them. They want to return back to where they were innocent tykes gaping open mouthed at the boob tube where men who looked like their action figures were killing “bad guys” before they grew up and realized the world is shit.

  • 3. auhsoJ  |  August 16th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I had no idea the dude from ‘Shawn’ was behind this. I had assumed it was another “quirk-it-up” flick.

    Thanks for showing me otherwise.

  • 4. Ineda Name  |  August 16th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    My Spidey sense tells me that Michael Cera might suddenly start expressing more interest in being a part of that Arrested Development movie.

  • 5. Glaswegian Headcase  |  August 16th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    “The Wicker Man” is set in SCOTLAND — just an ever so slight difference,
    there…

  • 6. MQ  |  August 16th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Jesus, Dolan, stop wasting your time in stupid movies and read a book again. Jonathan Franzen has a new one out, y’know.

  • 7. GARY  |  August 16th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    thanks again eileen…nothing is more fun than your acid tongue..(pen?) especially if the movie is bad and even if it is good

  • 8. Flatulissimo  |  August 16th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Given the reviewers’ previously-stated penchant for stoopid genre action flicks, it seems like The Expendables would have been the obvious choice. And the resulting review would have been much more entertaining. The Expendables has got to be better than Predators and the A-Team, both of which got reviewed here.

  • 9. Wyse Guy  |  August 17th, 2010 at 4:56 am

    Fuck you with an iron dildo up your ass CapnMarvel!

    Kickass was awesome, especially how it sent up the entire fucking superhero genre, with the near murder of that stupid ninja-hero-kid Hit-Girl, being the icing on the cake.

    If this movie goes for that aesthetic, then you know what I say? AWESOME!

  • 10. Mike  |  August 17th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    This probably covers all the bases on the Expendables:

    http://www.ruthlessreviews.com/10743/the-expendables/

  • 11. JoJoJo  |  August 18th, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Ugh, Ruthless Reviews is filled with try hards. They are white and bougie to the point of causing physical pain. They can’t touch Eileen or even that lady from The Stranger.

  • 12. DtD  |  August 18th, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    @MQ there is no fucking way Eileen Jones is one of Dolan’s pseudonyms. Can you even attend american style megaplex movie theatres in Iraq?

  • 13. Idaho66  |  August 18th, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    No no no. The exile is looking completely the wrong way. Look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11020765. Inquiring minds want to know: will there be yet more prancing at the border gates at sundown? Moustaches drawn, boots bared… will the Poonch be screwed??

  • 14. KA  |  August 18th, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Kick-ass was pretty good. This was…. meh.

  • 15. Michael  |  August 18th, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Good, another film review.

    Now where is the rest of this goddam site?

  • 16. Wyse Guy  |  August 21st, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    This movie was silly, stupid, fun and AWESOME !!!

    Now can we get real Eile articles back please?

  • 17. Wyse Guy  |  August 21st, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    This movie was silly, stupid, fun and AWESOME !!!

    Now can we get some real Exile articles over here please?

  • 18. Allen  |  August 22nd, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I think people are experiencing Michael Cera fatigue. I liked one or two of his films and AD, but now I kind of wish he would go away. I’m well sick of his awkward stammering by now …

    Speaking of things going away, is the Exiled on vacation or what? I guess Dolan has a job now, so that cuts the content by like 35-40%, but aren’t we overdue for another Ames screed against Wall Street or something?

  • 19. Mish  |  August 22nd, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Yo it’s not Eileen’s fault everyone else is a lazy ngr. WHERE YOU AT WAR NERD??

    But whatever, I liked the review.

  • 20. good ol' johnny  |  August 22nd, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    The preview looked stupid. Enough said.

  • 21. FrankMcG  |  August 22nd, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I take it as a sign that people are finally starting to recognize Michael Cera being in a movie as a sure sign of suck.

    Arrested Development of good. His movie career? bleh

  • 22. yoni levy  |  August 24th, 2010 at 6:56 am

    “I take it as a sign that people are finally starting to recognize Michael Cera being in a movie as a sure sign of suck.”

    This is a shame that you talk like that!

  • 23. FrankMcG  |  August 24th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    A shame?

    You never saw Juno and Year One, did you?

  • 24. Will  |  August 24th, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    <<>>

    Hell no. We’ve been watching ‘Ran’ and ‘Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’ on Hulu. Do your research, homeslice!

  • 25. Moviesuxd  |  August 24th, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Michael Cera’s skinny, ugly and really annoying. Why does he keep getting put in these movies?

    And the main girl, let’s face it, she’s barely pretty enough to warrant a slap-fight with a gay midget let alone a death duel with 7 psychos.

  • 26. Luke  |  August 26th, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Films like this are created by knowing 30-somethings who refuse to grow up for teens and 20-somethings who haven’t quite grown up yet. They never quite hit their mark.

  • 27. FrankMcG  |  August 26th, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    It also probably failed due to conflicting appeal.

    Does this appeal to 20/30 something oldschool video gamers? Not really, because the premise is so embarrassing juvenile (you must employ video game logic to beat your girlfriend’s ex’s for the “right” to date her?).

    Does this appeal to young juvenile video gamers then? Not really, because they’re all too young to recognize most of the old school references plus hipster appeal doesn’t kick in until one’s 20’s.

    Does this appeal to hipsters then? Not really, because 100% of the movie isn’t made up of judging obscure musical tastes.

    Does this appeal to women?

    FUCK NO!

  • 28. moviesuck  |  August 26th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Movie’s too gimmicky.

    It MIGHT have worked if they’d just focused more on the outrageous fights and less on the talking and the talking and the talking and WHO CARES STOP TALKING START FIGHTING ARRRGGGGHHHHHH!

  • 29. robin  |  August 31st, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Perfect summing up of Cera, CapnMarvel.

    There is ZERO to this guy. WHY do we keep seeing him in films?

  • 30. Peter  |  September 6th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    it had great style and perfect cues for videogame nerds

  • 31. Hello Man  |  November 28th, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    First off, See This Movie. Seriously, see this movie. If nothing else it’ll bring you up to speed on an entire subculture that has nurtured the kids, adolescents and now that they’ve grown up, the adults who work hard, care about studying and have now taken up positions in the professional world. Scott Pilgrim, perfectly captures this joy in the world of comic books, video games and making music with and for your friends. Scott Pilgrim is the perfect film that brings these interests together and binds them beyond that even.
    What is that further binding? Beyond the retro video games, beyond the comic books (now when they’re hundreds of pages long referred to as “graphic novels”) and beyond the garage bands, the relations that young people form with each other, how they sometimes are inadvertently cruel with each other and how they have to try doubly hard to bring these sometimes broken aspects back together.

    But enough talk. Watch:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGB4VDQI6XM

    This is the scene in the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs the World where the entire movie turns. You could easily rename this scene as four exes collide.

    Scott Pilgrim, is the young man played by Michael Cera, taking his now notorious nebbish portrayals and stretching them out satirically for laughs.


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