A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this adaptation of a popular graphic novel series -- which stars teen favorite Michael Cera -- features some strong language, superhero- and video game-style violence, and teen sexuality, but it's ultimately age-appropriate for teens. The sexuality includes some passionate kisses and a couple of hooking-up scenes (both gay and straight); in one scene, a couple ends up in bed -- she in her bra, he shirtless -- but no sex is shown on screen. One character explodes after unexpectedly having an instantaneous orgasm. Language includes some uses of words like "s--t" and "ass," and there's one character who says "f--k" several times, though they're mostly bleeped. All of the violence is stylized and cartoonish rather than realistic and bloody. And for a geeky-hipster tale, there are remarkably few product placements.
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What's the story?
This graphic novel adaptation takes place in not-quite-exotic Toronto, Canada, where Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a stereotypical 20-something slacker: He's the bass player in a band called Sex Bob-omb, a self-described geek who's dating 17-year-old high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), and he crashes at his gay best friend Wallace's (Kieran Culkin) flat. Life consists mostly of band practice, hanging out, and playing video games with Knives ... until one day he spies irresistible, magenta-haired Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). After hooking up with Ramona, Scott realizes he must properly break it off with the adoring Knives -- and then discovers that he must defeat Ramona's "Seven Evil Exes" -- the nefarious league of all the people she's dumped since elementary school -- to truly be with his new love interest. A series of video game-style battles ensues -- can Scott prove that he has what it takes? And is Ramona worth the effort?
Is it any good?
At first, director Edgar Wright creates a meta-clever universe in which Scott's infatuation with Ramona and the first couple of evil-ex showdowns are hilarious and well-executed. Scott doesn't quite understand what's going on at first, but he knows he's into Ramona, and if this is what he has to do, he's sorta-kinda willing. But as the Mortal Kombat-style battles continue and escalate, viewers begins to wonder -- along with Scott -- why this girl whom he doesn't exactly have sizzling chemistry with is making him risk his life six times to have a happy ending. While he's head over heels for her, she calls him "the nicest guy" she's ever gone out with -- faint praise when her former significant others include arrogant and conceited types like a handsome action star (Chris Evans), a super-vegan bassist (Brandon Routh), and the evil exes' leader, Gideon, a jerky music producer played by Jason Schwartzman. There's one girl too -- the "bi-curious" and "bi-furious" Roxy Richter (a heavily made-up Mae Whitman, who long ago played Cera's girlfriend Ann on Arrested Development).
By the time Scott plows through all of the exes to reach Gideon, the novelty hasn't exactly worn off, but it no longer provides the jolt of excitement that energized the first half of the action. Cera, that ubiquitous Everyman who looks more boy than man, plays Scott as so spineless that it's hard to believe he can harness any of the power points necessary to defeat some of the exes. In fact, the most interesting character is Wallace. With his dark dye job making him look like a younger Tobey Maguire, Culkin is positively show-stopping, chewing up the scenery with his pithy advice and super-ability to phone Scott's put-together younger sister, Stacey (Anna Kendrick), whenever Scott's acting like an idiot (which is to say, most of the time). Culkin shines so brightly that it's too bad graphic novelist Bryan Lee O'Malley didn't write a Wallace-centric spin-off that could be adapted into a sequel.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does it compare to what you've seen in other action movies? Does it have more or less impact?
The movie seems aimed at those immersed in video game culture -- i.e., teens. Do you think it's as funny or relevant for parents/adults?
What does Scott learn about himself by fighting off all of the exes?
Why are graphic novel adaptations so popular? For those familiar with both, how does the movie compare to the graphic novels?
- In theaters: August 13, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: November 9, 2010
- Cast: Chris Evans, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Cera
- Director: Edgar Wright
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references
- Last updated: May 25, 2020
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