One of the most enjoyable experiences I have had with a recent comedy. Based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley and inspired by tons of video games, this is not only a gamer’s delight, but a freshly absurd take on romance and relationships. One has to applaud director Edgar Wright for his ability to constantly change his approaches to storytelling because there is very little stylistic evidence that this is the same guy who directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (other than the same sense of humor). The film’s energy is cinematically wonderful, and it is amazing to see all the effects and witty visuals come through very cohesively. It is a fantastic example of immense planning.
At first glance, some people may find its pacing and synergy a bit overwhelming, but most of it is completely motivated by the twisted logic of a video game. There is also a little bit of Orson Welles-inspired editing here where characters seamlessly transition from one scene to another (for a clearer understanding, refer to Citizen Kane or Mr. Arkadin). For example, a theme from the game Zelda is used in one particular scene and it cleverly makes sense in that moment’s context. Again, my compliments to the people who really thought this out. This may be Michael Cera’s best performance to date in the opinion of this reviewer. His deadpan delivery seems to fit the role of a wannabe rockstar who thinks he ‘is all that’ while simultaneously cowers from Life’s misfortunes like a sad puppy. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (a.k.a. John McClane’s daughter in Live Free or Die Hard) takes on a role that allows her to take more chances due to her character’s impenetrable courage, stereotypical nerd Jason Schwartzman gets to play a nerdy Bond villain-figure for a change (most likely inspired by the snobby villain played by Klaus Maria Brandauer in Never Say Never Again; co-produced by Schwartzman’s father, Jack Schwartzman) and kudos to Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh for making fun of his super alter ego. In order to get the girl, hero Scott must face the wrath of seven, jealous, evil ex’s. This is an allegory to the seven deadly sins with each ex representing a specific sin. The defeat of each ex-“boyfriend” brings Cera’s Scott one step closer to securing his place with Winstead’s Ramona, while at the same time allows her to let go of her past.
Like one of Life’s BIG tests or like some video game, Scott must use his inspirational ‘ninja’ powers to overcome these epic distractions. The most astoundingly amusing thing is that somehow, deep in all of its silliness and showiness, is an understandable, relatable parallel to couples’ difficulties. There is that previous guy or girl that makes one uncomfortable. There is miscommunication, and there is always emotional baggage (especially the ones that try to kill you). There is even that quasi-best friend slash jerk (in the form of a tirelessly entertaining Kieran Culkin in one of his best roles) that helps you and mocks your pain at the same time. A big thanks to a film that teaches us that love first requires self-respect. It keeps the sword sharp.