Michael Cera in review

Fans of the Scott Pilgrim series seemed collectively intrigued by the idea of the Canadian graphic novel being transformed into an Edgar Wright flick, and then Scott Pilgrim fans collectively slapped their foreheads when they found out that the title character was going to be played by Michael Cera. Is it possible that Cera could pull this off? Scott Pilgrim has to be a bit of a badass, and there’s no way that the same guy who played Paulie Bleeker in every film is going to be that versatile To find out, the Toban is pitting Michael Cera against himself, using a selected number of his previous roles.

Arrested Development — Cera’s character was a dweeby, weird, quiet, mumbling young man with an obsessive crush on his cousin, Maeby. His primary reaction is to mumble and look away from basically anything, while passively trying to romance his father’s sister’s likely-biological daughter, and not have too many things his family does mess up his life too badly. Meet George Michael.

Juno — This dweeby, quiet, athletic-ish, young man with a penchant for orange Tic Tacs and a lost-cause crush waits for the girl who once liked him to fall for him again. Lucky for him, she does. Then he quits the track team to play guitar with her. George Michael finally got over Maeby, and now has a prop-related indiosyncracy.

Youth in Revolt — The mannerisms of the principal character (Nick Twisp, not Francois Dillinger) are the same as the aforementioned characters, with the insertion of sarcasm. He doesn’t play the guitar, but he carries around a journal. He lies to his family, girlfriend, and everyone else in his bumbling, charming-young-man way as he commits arson, grand theft auto (twice), break-and-enter, and drugs the girl of his dreams. The events that unfold are radically different from things his previous characters would do, but they are delivered with the same aplomb reserved for his telling someone that perhaps Maeby isn’t his biological cousin, or that he’s out of orange Tic Tacs. Even his altar ego, Francois Dillinger, is a calm, mumbly rebel who exerts all his body’s energy to flip over a cereal bowl before going for a walk. George Michael is going through a bit of a phase.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — Cera changes things up here. He’s assertive, as much as one can be without turning it into a foible, when defending himself against the irrationally bitchy Julie, the cynical Kim — and come to think of it — basically every woman he’s ever dated, except Knives, who blindly follows him around like a lost puppy. Michael Cera ditches the mumbling doofus routine, and instead takes on the I’m-in-a-band doofus routine. This doofus has the audience rooting for him until the very end, when his self-editing and convenient memory loss routine lifts enough to show everyone, including Pilgrim, that he’s an asshole. Pilgrim realizes he is, and always has been an asshole, confronts his shit-ish-ness, and apologizes to all the women he has wronged over the years, giving a bit of humanity to their characters, and redeeming himself. This may be an incredibly disturbing aspect of Cera’s characters, regardless of how he actually plays them: they do creepy, weird, and mean things to women they are interested in, but because Cera is playing the main character, the audience automatically wants to root for him.

Is it going to be painful to see Cera return to the screen as George Michael in the Arrested Development movie? Of course it is, but mostly because everything in George Michael’s life is painful. We’ve lived through Cera playing this character a million times, and we’ll live through it again. Thank your heavenly stars that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World granted a much-needed recess for the audience, so that they can sit through another film with Cera in it.
Congratulations, George Michael. Cera.