Forget suspension of disbelief. It’s not even an issue. We frequently interrupt this movie to register the points you’ve scored by “taking out” an opponent. Oh, wait, first we have to set up the scenario where you have opponents. Michael Cera, the ubiquitous dork, plays Scott Pilgrim, who’s currently leading the ideal slacker life — he’s through with school, is in the middle of forming a band, and is completely available to “hang out” with his friends and explore the possibilities of dating. Working for a living? What’s that?
We establish our “open-minded” credentials through being roommates with a gay guy, and not being threatened, even by sharing the same bed, though we shouldn’t be too surprised to be asked to leave, on occasion, you know, so things don’t get embarrassing. His only family seems to be an older sister, Stacey (Anna Kendrick), who does work, at a coffee shop, and provides some reality check over the phone, and occasionally even in person.
Pilgrim becomes enamored with a high school student, “Knives” Chau (Ellen Wong), whose main contribution to his world is being the band’s greatest cheerleader, which isn’t so bad, but Pilgrim gets swept off his feet by a mysterious girl on roller blades who skates first through his desert dreams, and then appears in snowy Toronto with him. Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who changes hair color every week and a half whether she needs to or not, is just aloof and mysterious enough to capture Pilgrim’s boyish attention, but she’s got lots of baggage: seven evil exes. If Scott Pilgrim is going to be with her, he’s going to have to do battle with the baggage, and defeat the “exes”, without somehow losing himself in the process. (Like, if you start getting all jealous and angry, then you’re boring, and you’ve become just another ex waiting to happen.)
It’s no stretch at all to suddenly see the characters assume video-game-type superpowers, so they can brawl with wild abandon, but somehow bloodlessly, as well. Sometimes the action pauses long enough to label a scene with “tags” underneath the characters (17 years old, unattached), like you would introduce a new character in a video game, briefly, before jumping into the action. The band’s music, of course, is garage-band style, indie-angst-rock, The White Stripes without the bankable polish. The scenes are in crowded clubs and downtown streets; empty parks and basement apartments. Nothing of “the real world” seems to enter in, other than when they enter a “battle of the bands” contest and some of those other guys are really good.
Where is this going? We have no idea. We’re just living in the moment, having fun with filling in the dialogue blanks, just playing our music and deciding, occasionally, if we want to continue: 10,9,8,7,6 … do you want to continue?
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor, Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.