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Hollow loser

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
12A, Nationwide

28 August 2010

12:00 AM

28 August 2010

12:00 AM

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
12A, Nationwide

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has a running time of 113 hateful minutes — actually, make that 112 hateful minutes; the first minute was fine, and not too loud — but, in its defence, it probably wasn’t made for someone as hopelessly middle-aged and frighteningly not with-it as me. (I’ve even started saying ‘Ooh, that so hits the spot’ when I take a first sip of tea.) It’s based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, should that mean anything to you, and is a frantic, frenetic mash-up of comic-book iconography, video games, music videos and, I’m guessing, whatever else young people are into today but I just didn’t get. I do not know if this film failed me or I failed it. I can only say it gave me a headache, and then a second headache, on top of the first, and if there is one thing you don’t need when you reach my age it’s a double headache.

It’s directed and co-written by Edgar Wright, who also directed the deservedly well-liked comedies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but, here, there is no Britain to satirise as the action has been moved to Toronto. This is a loss. It stars Michael Cera as our hero Scott, a successful young attorney who is socially confident, a total dish and a big hit with the ladies. I’m toying with you. Michael Cera’s Scott is a dorky loser in an anorak because dorky losers in anoraks are what Michael Cera does, and will probably do until the end of time itself, God bless him. Scott is 22, jobless, plays bass in a bad garage band and is in pursuit of the girl of his dreams.


This is Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a punky beauty who sometimes has green hair and sometimes has blue hair but otherwise doesn’t appear to add up to much, not that anyone notices. Scott is desperate to date her — and she him, unfathomably — but before he can do so he must see off her ‘seven evil exes’ although I couldn’t tell you why. This is also unfathomable. Actually, I think some kind of explanation might have been offered right at the end, by the seventh evil ex, Gideon, but by that time my brain had left the cinema and had gone somewhere else entirely. It was probably thinking about how young policeman look these days, and whether any of these policemen ever think, ‘Gosh, aren’t the general public looking old.’ And then, ‘It’s true! I am getting younger!’

This film does have energy and invention, I suppose. It is fast. It is noisy. In its way, it’s audacious. It pulsates with graphic life. The word ‘thonk’ flashes up on when Scott hits his head, like that ‘kerpow’ used to do in the Batman TV series. Animated word balloons pop out of people’s mouths. Phone texts write themselves across the screen. There are force fields, on-screen scores of the kind found on computer games, plus moments of pure magical realism. Are the characters for real? Or part of an arcade game themselves? I don’t know, and I didn’t much care.

Energy and invention and audacity count for little unless you can sense something at its core — unless a film gives you something to feel — but there is zilch here. It’s hollow. It’s as if working on the visual style was so exhausting no one had anything left over for a decent script — a few gags, but nothing to write home about — or interesting characters. Scott, in particular, is a mighty bore. And the narrative is mind-numbingly repetitive, relying as it does on the same thing over and over: that is, Scott seeing off the exes in strung-out, pointless CGI fights. By the end of the first fight, I’d had quite enough and still had six to go. I should also add that during these fights Scott transforms into a spectacular action God. How? Why? No idea. Unfathomable.

Like I said, I don’t know if I failed this film or it failed me. Maybe I just didn’t get the popular culture references. Why, when Scott destroyed an evil ex, did that ex explode in a shower of coins? If this had some significance it flew right over my double headache. This is a torturous film, and I wish I’d stayed at home with a nice cup of tea, the first sip of which, I always find, so hits the spot. Seriously, it does.


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