Looking Back On Another Ex
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation
Where Scott Pilgrim vs. the World gives us a bit of backstory about the various evil exes that Scott has to fight in order to win the hand of Ramona Flowers (really, just go watch the movie), it didn't delve anywhere near as far into Scott's own exes. We know he dated Kim at one point, and then she became the drummer in his band, and then somehow they broke up but she remained in the band... or something. The film is never really clear about the details, or the order, of these events. Frankly, it plays it all off for laughs until Scott has a growth moment and apologizes to Kim for "everything". It's a good moment in the film, but still, what happened?
That's the question answered by the animated short film Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. Released in support for the theatrical run of the movie (and then later packaged onto the home video releases), this animated short is all about Scott and Kim. No Ramona, no Knives, and none of the other characters we know. If you wanted to know how Scott and Kim met, why they got together, and why they broke up, well... this does answer that (even if, at just over three minutes, it's doesn't really spend a lot of time on answering it well).
In the short, Scott (voiced by Michael Cera) is at the Principal's office after getting into a fight. He didn't win the fight, and it's not even clear if he started it. But he's there, after just fifteen minutes of being at the school. Being the new kid sucks. But while he's there he meets Lisa (voiced by Mae Whitman, who also plays Roxie in the movie) and the two of them bond and decide to form a band. That same day he also gets assigned a study partner, Kim Pine (Alison Pill), and the two form a quiet, sarcastic friendship. You know, as you'd expect with Kim.
But then tragedy strikes. The boys from a nearby school come in and beat up all the other students. Lisa tells Scott that the boys, led by Simon Lee (Jason Schwartzman, who also played Gideon "G-Man" Graves in the movie), have taken Kim. Scott has to rush to their school, beat up all the guys, and save the girl that, he realizes, he actually likes. And maybe this could be the start of a grand romance... right up until he has to move to Toronto with hims family. Tragedy once again, and the end of a budding relationship.
So let's be clear: this is a tiny short that was just meant to build buzz. We don't want to review that with the same critical eye as we would a big movie just because this is a little, cheap, promo piece. In that regard, then, this short does work... if the goal was to get fans of the comics interested in the movie. Those that like the book and maybe wanted a little taste of that same Scott Pilgrim humor would be able to get a joyful little taste from this short.
And it is amusingly joyful, feeling like a nice little in-continuity addition to the film. That's not just because of the fact that it has a bunch of the same actors voicing roles in this short, although that does help. It also uses many of the same little flourishes that the film had. Text boxes to let us know the characters, amusing censoring of words whenever a character tries to cuss, and lots of fun little flashing bits on the screen to keep the energy of the piece moving. For as low budget as this short is, it does a good job of feeling like a good extension of the film.
I also appreciate the nods to classic gaming that the short works in. Most specifically, the climax of the short is lifted from River City Ransom, one of the best brawlers from the NES era. That game was about two guys who have to fight their way across a city, fighting goons from a rival school also so they can get to that other school, beat up the high school gang leader, and save their kidnapped girlfriends. Scott takes on that mission and, surprisingly, is successful at it.
With that said how is Scott successful in beating up a whole school full of dudes. He loses his fight at the beginning of the short (and, shockingly, isn't reduced into a pile of change -- maybe they weren't playing by Toronto rules). But that same guy, who seems to fail at fighting, and didn't seem all that great at it in the movie, can somehow beat up an entire high school full of dudes. As much as it works for the video game homage their going for, it feels like a weird beat for him as a character.
At the same time, while this short does answer the "how did Scott get with Kim?" question, it fails to really answer how the break up was devastating for Kim. Scott is pulled out of school soon after getting there so his parents can move to Toronto. While that sucks, he tells Kim that (instead of just disappearing one day like you'd expect) and then soon after they say goodbye and he leaves. Like, the move isn't really under his control, and it sucks they had to break up but... that's a legitimate reason. Her being so mad at him in the movie about it feels weird when you watch this short.
Also, as per the short, he moves to Toronto, away from Kim. How did Kim get there. Sure, we could assume she moves there, but still, it feels weird. There's a part of this story missing that really should have been included. Did Kim move to Toronto after graduating and Scott started dating Envy? Were they supposed to do a long distance thing but then Scott and Envy got together and he didn't tell Kim. How did how this play out so that Kim is in Toronto, and mad at Scott, but still willing to be in a band with him. I have more questions than answers now.
The long and then (heh) short of it is that this is a fun and amusing little bonus for fans of the comics, fans of the movie, and those curious as to what it's all about. I dunno that if you're new to the whole franchise this would be the first thing I'd suggest you see (especially if you were at all interested in seeing the film when it came out in theaters). But it is fun, and it's a nice bonus for movie watchers looking for more Scott Pilgrim. It does what it needs to do.