Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
The Movie: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin
Director: Edgar Wright
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Scott Pilgrim must defeat his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes in order to win her heart.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81 percent
Brown: Sometimes, we pick movies on the JOE-DOWN we both love. Sometimes, it’s movies picked to make the other suffer because us Joes are occasionally garbage people.
This week, while we cleaned the crusty bits off our crotches after watching “American Pie” last week, I wanted to pick a movie I had no (REDACTED) clue whatsoever how Froemming would react to it.
That movie: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” It’s a movie that appeals to the brand of nerdiness I’m all about and it’s a movie I’ll watch at least once a year.
And it’s a movie I figured Froemming would really enjoy or really (REDACTED) hate. There would be no middle ground.
It didn’t take long to get a visceral reaction.
We’ll have plenty to nitpick here, but I’ll let you explain your initial reaction, Froemming.
Froemming: I had not seen this, and going in it had a lot I liked. 99 percent of the cast, the director, ect.
The one thing I had reservations about was the lead: Michael Cera, or what happens when a cardigan sweater becomes a person. He has only two projects I enjoy: “Arrested Development” and “Superbad,” and he is just the straight man to zany characters so it works with those projects.
What doesn’t work is putting him up front as a mopey character who is 22 and dates a (REDACTED) 17-year-old high school girl. Who is he, Ted Nugent?
So the things I enjoyed were tainted with the stink of Cera, an actor so one-note he’s the acting equivalent of Sid Vicious’ musical talents.
Wow, I went in hot there. Brown, while I come to terms with you picking this movie and nearly destroying my celebrity crush on Mary Elizabeth Winstead, why don’t you start this off?
Brown: We are whisked away to the magical land of Toronto, complete with music from “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” which is immediately a strong start to getting my undivided attention.
Then we meet Scott Pilgrim: one of the most irredeemable pieces of (REDACTED) in comic books and cinema.
Why, you ask?
First, his bandmates Kim and Stephen Stills rag on Scott for being a 22-year-old adult that started dating a 17-year-old high schooler.
Also, in describing his new girlfriend, Knives Chau, Scott has to immediately point out that she’s Chinese as if that doesn’t make him a racist later. I think Scott’s the type to think he’s not racist for having one black friend.
Froemming: Were there any black people in this movie?
Brown: I’m really drawing a blank on that one…
Kim instantly reveals herself as one of the Joes’ voice of reason when she calls Scott Pilgrim a monster for being Woody Allen-like in his pursuit of love. Also, this movie makes a Culkin a voice of reason when Scott’s roommate, Wallace, says the same thing.
EVEN Scott’s sister, Stacey, calls her younger brother a monster. Stacey is played by Anna Kendrick, which this was (thankfully) my first exposure to her before Froemming brought the “Twilight” franchise into my life.
Froemming: This movie has so much pop-culture references, that they really dropped the ball on not having Scott walk into Knives’ home with a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and some condoms, only to be confronted by “To Catch a Predator” host Chris Hansen.
Also, Wallace is the only character in this movie that I did not hope would somehow get murdered by the end of this.
Brown: Wallace is the MVP of this movie. I didn’t know if Kieran Culkin was trying or not, but his/Wallace’s irrelevant attitude through the whole thing is hilarious.
I also wouldn’t want to kill Kim. She seemed cool. And she sees through Scott’s shit, which I appreciate.
So Scott and Knives are doing things high schoolers do on “dates” and what adults DON’T do on dates, Scott, you predator! They play “Dance Dance Revolution.” They go to record stores to look at albums by bands, like Scott’s band (Sex Bob-Omb), that are named after video game entities like Crash and the Boys and The Clash at Demonhead.
Froemming: This is how their dates should have ended:
Brown: During the night, Scott has a dream of being in the desert, screaming about how he’s all alone like it’s Jay Sherman’s student film. In the dream, a cute girl with pink hair on roller blades goes by and Scott is instantly smitten with the dream woman like he’s Garth Algar.
Froemming: As luck would have it, Scott finds out his dream girl is real and through a crude drawing of scribbles that he probably thinks is a sign he should major in art in college, finds her at a party he did not want to go to. And looking at all the people at his party, they all look like the folks who would never buy anything at the record store I used to work at, then were SHOCKED when it went out of business.
Hipsters. They are all hipsters. This movie is my Hell.
Brown: This party is also hosted by Aubrey Plaza, which was my first exposure to her since I got into “Parks and Recreation” late.
Scott’s introduction to Ramona is bad as he tries to impress her with Pac-Man’s origin story. It was made so much worse because that’s absolutely something I would do to try and impress a cute woman.
Finding out that Ramona is a delivery person for Amazon Canada, Scott makes an order for something he doesn’t care about just to meet Ramona again and ask her on a date. As he does this, he also gets a threatening email about a fight to the death that he flat-out ignores. To be fair, something I’d probably do as well.
Froemming: Woah, woah woah! You totally skimmed over the fact he coerces her on a date by not signing for his package, forcing this poor woman to have to stand there next to Michael Cera, which sounds like another personal hell.
Brown: Yeah… the more I saw Scott Pilgrim/Michael Cera in this movie, the more I related to J.K. Simmons in “Juno.”
Speaking of things that Scott skims over because he’s a garbage person: Breaking up with his current (underaged) girlfriend before he dates someone who isn’t jailbait.
Froemming: He certainly does not do that, as he spends the night with Ramona, then asks her to go to his crappy show. I had a rule with friends back in the day: I have absolutely no interest in your band, so don’t bother inviting me to your show.
Harsh? Yes. Honest? Yes. Saved all of us the bother? Yes.
Brown: Not only a show for friends you don’t want to see, but a Battle of the Bands, so two bands you don’t want to see!
Again, Wallace saves this scene by constantly ragging on the other band, Crash and the Boys.
Froemming: So, at their show, Scott forgets he is dating a high schooler, and Knives shows up around the same time as Ramona. To escape this pickle of his own (REDACTED) making, Scott says he has to go to the bathroom and bails, because not only is he a loser, he is also a coward.
Brown: He’s also a bassist with the skill of Sid Vicious. Sex Bob-Omb takes the stage for their song in the Battle of the Bands and once again, Stephen Stills is the guy who carries this damn unit.
But then, the set is ruined by a man flying through the roof challenging Scott to a fight to the death.
The man: Matthew Patel, the first of Ramona’s seven evil exes! From the League of Evil Exes.
… Still a better unit of bad guys than the Suicide Squad.
Froemming: So not only does one have to think about all the others their next sexual partner has been with and what STDs they might have (Patel looks like he carries a few of them), in this world you actually have to meet the sons-of-bitches and fight them.
Also, nothing more awkward than meeting your SO’s exes. I have done this a bunch of times, and it is always awkward.
So Patel crashes through the ceiling and says they need to fight to the death, like the email he sent Scott had stated. But since Scott seems more like the guy who complains about the “friend zone” on reddit, and not one to read emails, this is news to him.
Brown: I mean, I’m conflicted by this. The fight scenes are well done. They give off the arcade fighting game vibe, which, again, completely my kind of nerdiness.
But, Michael Cera is the least believable action star ever. I think he was the right casting choice for what Scott Pilgrim is as a douchey but (supposedly) lovable dork. But it’s still a hard visual to grasp as Cera throws roundhouse kicks and hits an Indian man so hard he explodes into Loonies, defeating the first of Ramona’s seven evil exes.
Then again, that keeps up with Pilgrim’s brand of racism.
After satisfying the blood lust of fans of a lame Battle of the Bands, Scott tells Wallace (after walking back to their apartment to the “Seinfeld” bass line, which HAD to infuriate Froemming) he got to “second-and-a-half base.”
Brown: Here’s where I reinstate that Scott STILL has not broken up with Knives.
When Scott finally gets around to it, it gets SUPER racist. Like, One America News wants Scott to tone down the racist Chinese rhetoric. Froemming, I’ll let you break that down.
Froemming: Well, for one she asks him to dinner to meet her parents, and he asks “Chinese food?” Which, Walter…
Then he says that maybe her culture does not allow dating outside the races, like he is Strom Thurmond or something.
Brown: Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” thinks that line was too far, Scott.
Knives… she doesn’t take the breakup well. She keeps calling Ramona a fatass, which is simply not true. Then Knives dyes half of her hair blue to coop Ramona’s look of dying her hair a different color every 10 days or something.
Scott invites Ramona over. Here’s a list of the activities:
– Make garlic bread for dinner. I don’t know if there was anything else but garlic bread.
– Scott plays Ramona a song he wrote for her, which is barely a song. It’s here where I thought Ramona wrote something for Scott that went something like this:
– With Scott getting in Ramona’s grill about the evil exes thing, Scott skirts around his relationship with The Clash at Demonhead singer Envy.
Trying to avoid being an adult like he has through the entire movie, Scott takes Ramona out on a walk in the middle of the Toronto winter to a castle where a movie is being filmed starring Lucas Lee, played by pre-Captain America Chris Evans.
Froemming: Or post-Fantastic 4 Chris Evans.
And Evans here looks just like Liev Schreiber’s Sabertooth in that “Wolverine” movie, only this has a skateboard in it. And, it turns out, Ramona dated him at one point in her life. This bigshot movie star is part of the ridiculously named League of Evil Exes. Jesus, did George W. Bush name this crew of dingdongs?
Brown: Nope, we’ll find out later that a Coppola named this crew of dingdongs.
Anyways, Lucas Lee and his band of stunt doubles kick the crap out of Scott until Pilgrim plays to Lee’s past as a professional skateboarder by daring him to grind a long, dangerous rail that ultimately leads to Lee exploding like a Spinal Tap drummer.
Well, Lee willingly did grind a rail during a snowy Toronto winter night, so Scott deserved to win that battle. But he’s still a monster for convincing a man to kill himself and putting a bunch of teamsters that were working on this movie out of work.
Honestly, which Michael Cera is a bigger monster: Scott Pilgrim or Michael Cera in “This is the End?”
Froemming: That’s asking which 9/11 is the worst 9/11.
Anyway, Ramona vanishes while all this nonsense is going on. Because it is embarrassing I’d imagine to be in a movie where Michael Cera tops Chris Evans in any situation.
And after all this, Scott gets a call from Brie Larson, who plays his ex Envy and who is way out of his league anyway. She is coming back to town to play a show and wants to know who he is dating, because this movie is nothing but toxic people in toxic relationships. This show might as well be at Giley’s, where John Travolta fell in love with a mechanical bull.
Brown: A comic book movie with Chris Evans and Brie Larson. Confirmed: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Froemming: And it sparks my interest just about as much as the MCU. Also, with Winstead and Culkin, we have two actors from the series “Fargo,” which I pray is not in this shit universe.
Brown: So Scott’s ex is back in town and, to make matters worse, The Clash at Demonhead offers Sex Bob-Omb the chance to open for them, which they do because Stephen Stills and Kim need something good in their lives.
Like any opening band, no one gives a (REDACTED) about Sex Bob-Omb. Then The Clash at Demonhead comes on to a raucous crowd. And a point Froemming made to me set in: Brie Larson is (REDACTED) Courtney Love in this movie.
Froemming: Does she kill Scott in the comics, and frame it as a suicide?
Brown: Not that I’m aware of. I think she just performs Scott’s songs as her own, only they’re not as good.
It turns out that Envy left Scott for Todd, the band’s bassist. And, Ramona once dated a bassist named Todd. AND HE’S WEARING A BIG THREE ON HIS SHIRT BECAUSE SUBTLETY!
Todd… he punches Knives in the face, so he deserves to get his ass kicked. But it turns out that he has super powers because he is a vegan and vegans are the homo superior.
And in another mashup of superhero movies, Todd is played by Brandon Routh, the man behind the wildly forgettable “Superman” movie that Bryan Singer left the “X-Men” franchise to make.
It’s meta, but it is meta I don’t give a (REDACTED) about!
So Scott gets his ass handed to him by a vegan, which is almost as hilarious as the time I saw two hippies fight at a Phish concert. Almost, the hippie fight was (REDACTED) hilarious, and this movie is not.
But Scott has a card up his sleeve: He tricks Todd into drinking some half-and-half, causing the vegan cops to take his powers away for consuming a meat product.
Brown: And in MORE comic book movie callbacks, one of the vegan cops is the (REDACTED) Punisher himself, Thomas Jane.
At one point, Scott laments to Ramona, asking if all she ever dated were assholes. She says he’s not one…
Ramona, this is how Scott Pilgrim is introduced to all of Canada.
Also, Scott is a pedophile. And, in the next scene, he punches a woman in the boob.
The next ex turns out to a woman named Roxy Richter in Ramona’s “experimental” phase.
Froemming: Not just any ex, Brown. That ex is as Ann as the nose on Plain’s face!
Brown: Dude! I never put that together. Good catch!
Ramona starts the fight off because Scott can’t hit a girl. … He can make racist comments to his former teen Chinese girlfriend but he wouldn’t dare hit a woman!
Now, Ramona and Scott put their minds together to defeat Roxy Richter by (checks notes) making her orgasm?! By touching the back of Roxy’s knee?
Froemming, is the G-spot behind a woman’s knees? I’m taking notes…
These two really take Egg out in a weird way, huh.
So, after AnnHog falls due to her G-Spot being discovered on the back of her knee, we have a battle of the bands coming up. This time, the bands play at one another for reasons? And, even more gross, turns out Ramona was hip to this incest porn stuff years before it was popular for some reason, as it turns out she dated two siblings.
Brown, you’re a real son-of-a-bitch for making me sit through this movie full of pedophiles and incest lovers.
And our two leads have broken up. Because one is a pedophile and the other is into incest shit. Their twisted love was doomed from the start, for they did not share the same gross kinks.
Brown: The movie’s reason for Scott and Ramona’s breakup is because of the final evil ex: Gideon Graves. He’s a record producer and Nic Cage’s real-life cousin. Gideon offers Sex Bob-Omb a record deal, which Stephen Stills gleefully signs because he’s a talented musician who is a band that stole The Vines’ sound. Kim signs, too, but Scott refuses to in protest, only for their friend, Neil, signs while also taking bass duties from Scott.
Froemming: Talented? He sounds like this guy:
Brown: Stephen Stills is THE talent, you son of a bitch!
Trying to play the slick peacemaker, Gideon invites Scott to his new club in Toronto in hopes of burying the hatchet. But when Scott arrives, Sex Bob-Omb looks like miserable sellouts and Scott is ready to kick Gideon’s ass for Ramona’s love.
Of course, Scott says he’s in “lesbians” with Ramona. Because he’s a monster that should be hauled away by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Froemming: Ramona also looks like Goth Slave Leia here. And Gideon, played by Jason Schwartzman who can actually play instruments unlike Scott, reveals he started the League of Evil Exes because when Ramona left, that is when he gave a crap about her.
So, he is just as toxic as Scott, minus being a pedophile and all.
Brown: Yeah, Gideon is the Joker and Ramona is Harley Quinn. If Harley Quinn was into watching incest.
While battling Gideon, Knives flies out of nowhere to attack Ramona for stealing Scott from her.
Froemming: I just want to add here that this is Scott Pilgrim:
Brown: Scott reluctantly tells the truth about cheating on Knives and gets a sword through the torso from Gideon, seemingly ending his life.
Being back in his Jay Sherman student film desert, Ramona reveals to Scott that she has a chip in the back of her neck that makes her infatuated with Gideon.
AND, after beating the twins earlier, Scott got a 1-up, because video games (I geeked out for that). So, he gets a second crack at Gideon where he’s motivated by love, Scott is motivated by self-respect. He acts like an adult and fesses up about cheating on both girls and admits he’s a douche nozzle. It still doesn’t remove the fact he’s a racist and a pedophile, though.
Froemming: And this apology does not really make him an adult. It just makes him “caught.” There is a difference.
And, I mean, he was dating a high schooler. Again:
This alone should be a reason for Ramona to ditch his creepy ass. And for the Toronto PD to look into his troubling relationship with a high school girl. There is no redemption in my eyes. Just flat-out horror at what I am seeing.
Brown: Yeah, Ramona should have taken a clue from the Lord Humungus when Scott made that first Amazon order.
So Scott is successful in this battle with Gideon, who ends up hitting Ramona during this donnybrook. It’s here when Scott and Knives team up to take out Gideon.
… Why? Knives, you owe this predator NOTHING. You also need to learn from the Lord Humungus.
Froemming: Knives is suffering from Stockholm syndrome. It is pretty depressing. Like the girls who protested outside the courthouse during the Manson trial, begging for Charlie to be free. It is going to take years of therapy for Knives to recover from this episode of her life.
Brown: Oh, just kill Scott. Pedophiles don’t last long in prison.
So Gideon is defeated via kick to the head, which is, again, a really cool effect if it wasn’t Loonies.
BUT, Gideon isn’t the final boss. Instead, it’s Scott’s evil half: Nega-Scott.
We don’t see a battle. Instead, Scott and Nega-Scott talk it out. My working theory: Regular Scott IS evil Scott, like how Bart Simpson was the evil twin instead of Hugo. I think that comes from my desire to see Scott Pilgrim stuck to a life of eating fish heads.
Froemming: The tragic ending is this: Knives encourages Scott to go after Ramona, to not let love get away.
But we know this story, don’t we Brown. We have seen what happens when two toxic people end up together, playing games, going to Giley’s to while the hours away while falling for a mechanical bull, emotionally abusing one another while others watch on in horror.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is nothing but an “Urban Cowboy” prequel! #ChangeMyMind
Brown: Ramona says that Scott is the nicest guy she’s ever dated.
… Let that sink in for a moment, dear reader. Ted Bundy is a more caring lover than Scott Pilgrim.
And on that note, my dream girl just delivered a package to my house. Let’s get to recommendations so I can badger her for a date.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: This movie is all sorts of problematic but I STILL really enjoy it. It’s a fun movie that hits the right notes to my personality and my sensibilities. Scott Pilgrim sucks ass, but there’s still plenty of characters (namely Wallace) that make this really enjoyable.
Froemming: No. I see why some people would like it, but having known people like this in real life, it is not a fun watch for me.