[Screen It]

(2010) (Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead) (PG-13)

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Action-Comedy: A 22-year-old bassist must contend with his new girlfriend's seven evil exes who are determined to stymie the new relationship in a world that mixes rock 'n roll, video games and comic book elements and sensibilities.
Scott Pilgrim (MICHAEL CERA) is the 22-year-old bassist for Sex Bob-omb, a Toronto-based garage band consisting of Scott's ex-girlfriend, Kim Pine (ALISON PILL), on drums, Stephen Stills (MARK WEBBER) as the lead singer, and Young Neil (JOHNNY SIMMONS) waiting in the wings for his chance to perform with the group. They play hard, heavy and loud rock music, and their latest fervent fan is Knives Chau (ELLEN WONG), a 17-year-old high school student who's also Scott's latest girlfriend.

Their age difference doesn't bother either of them, but hasn't gone unnoticed by the band; Scott's gay roommate, Wallace Wells (KIERAN CULKIN); or Scott's sister, Stacey (ANNA KENDRICK). That's especially true since Scott still has issues regarding his break-up with Julie (BRIE LARSON), who now goes by the name Envy and fronts another rock band, albeit one that's far better known than Scott's

His and Knives' romance is short-lived, however, when Scott spots and is instantly smitten with Ramona Flowers (MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD), an American who sports vibrantly dyed hair and works delivering packages for an Internet company. While still dating Knives, Scott pursues Ramona, initially unaware of the peril and challenges that come along with her. And those would be her seven evil exes, past lovers who are determined to prevent the new romance from taking root.

Among them is Matthew Patel (SATYA BHABHA), the first to battle Scott in an exaggerated blend of archaic video game meets comic book style action violence where those who are defeated blast into an array of coins. There's also famous actor Lucas Lee (CHRIS EVANS); twins Kyle Katayanagi (KEITA SAITOU) and Ken Katayanagi (SHOTA SAITO); punker Roxy (MAE WHITMAN), Envy's band-mate Todd Ingram (BRANDON ROUTH), and record producer Gideon Graves (JASON SCHWARTZMAN). As he deals with all of them, Scott must also contend with trying to win over Ramona and Knives not being happy about that.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Average viewers might not think much about what goes into making a movie, but those in the industry or who report on it know it's usually not the easiest or speediest endeavor in the world of entertainment. Unlike a song that can be written and recorded in a day or two, TV shows that are popped out every week, or even novels that might take a considerably greater amount of time, movies often takes years to go from concept to delivered execution.

From obtaining the necessary financing, lining up the cast and crew, and then dealing with the challenges associated with shooting the scenes, editing the footage, dealing with studio suggestions and demands and then figuring out how to market the upcoming release, it's a surprise that more films don't end up being abandoned.

And when they stem from a previous source, that adds yet another set of obstacles, ranging from simply getting the rights to the material to dealing with fan expectations, deciding how faithful one should be to the original material, and, when it comes from another format, how best to represent that on the screen.

Considering the rapid fan base for them, comic books and/or older-leaning graphic novels are some of the toughest in such regards and have been met with varying degrees of artistic and commercial success over the years. Aside from the costumes and storylines, many have played it safe and gone the "realistic" route, while others have attempted to follow the old TV version of "Batman" (and its onscreen "Bam!" "Pow!" and other such power-word graphics) and include varying amounts and degrees of bringing comic book sensibilities to the moving image medium.

Of recent, "Sin City" probably went the farthest with that tactic, making much of the film look like comic book panels. Now director Edgar Wright continues a version of that trend with the imaginative, fun & funny, and highly entertaining but ultimately a bit repetitive "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." Based on the series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley, the film -- written by Wright and co-writer Michael Bacall -- includes "Batman" style wording and cartoon effects on the screen, along with exaggerated battles, old-school video game elements, and even a romantic comedy heart.

It also has lots of clever, quirky and imaginative humor liberally applied throughout, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen Wright's previous works, the zombie comedy "Shaun of the Dead" and the cop-buddy comedy "Hot Fuzz." For better or worse (depending on how much one feels about those films), the filmmaker has opted not to reunite with his past stars, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and instead has gone with Michael Cera, best known for appearing in films such as "Juno" and "Superbad."

Of course, the fact that Pegg and Frost are too old for the parts was the main factor in that decision, but Cera is perfect for the part even if he's older than the character he plays or his onscreen alter-ego is yet just another variation of the same lovable loser type he's made a career playing. Granted, those past parts didn't involve comic book style battles filled with exaggerated special effects, onscreen cartoon supplements and the like.

It's all quite goofy and probably will appeal far more to fan boys than the average moviegoer, but there's a decent and identifiable heartbeat and charm -- beneath all of the superficial mayhem -- that should touch a receptive nerve with those who don't have a Pavlovian drool response upon just hearing words such as "Comic Con."

Yes, they'll love all of the over-the-top material where Cera must battle an array of his new lovers' exes (including Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman among others), but the rest of us will likely prefer the smaller, more intimate, cute and charming moments between Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong and a scene-stealing Kieran Culkin as his sardonic gay roommate. Wright also wisely allows the movie to work on several levels, be that just a slick action flick, a romantic comedy hybrid of sorts, or a social commentary (including how young people escape in and feel empowered by their music, insecurities about a current lover's past, etc.).

The only problem I had with the film, beyond its overall ADD mindset, was that things eventually become too repetitive in the third act, with the various battles becoming more focused on action than smarts and imagination. Even Wright seems to hint that he's aware of the fact through a miscellaneous character at a party who's overheard sarcastically saying -- on separate occasions -- that the comic book was better than the film and that the first half of the latter was better than the second.

Having not read the comics, I can't attest to that, but having sat through the adaptation, I have to agree with the character's observation. That doesn't mean it turns out to be bad, rather it just seems to run out of some steam as it heads for the obligatory big and climatic fight sequence. Up until that point, however, it's a fun and funny ride that means "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" earns a 6.5 out of 10 rating.

Reviewed July 26, 2010 / Posted August 13, 2010

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