Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Poor 'Scott Pilgrim': Michael Cera Scares The Olds and Irritates The Youngs

MY NAME IS MICHAEL, I LIVE ON THE SECOND FLOORLet's go back in a time machine to 2003. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and pals come out with a new TV show and all of sudden everyone starts to notice a shy, quirky, weird kid playing a character named George Michael played by actor Michael Cera. The awkward deadpan character seemed to strike a chord with younger audiences. The marketers get excited!

Nine movies later, seven of which feature Cera as a lead, romantic or comedic, he's now the target of something mildly interesting, pop-culturally: outright hatred.

"Que Cera Cera" indeed. This Michael Cera backlash. What is it? How old is it?

The Michael Cera Backlash Begins, September, 2009 – Defamer
"It's a razor thin line between being the coolest person on the planet and being the uncoolest person on the planet, and hoodie hearthrob Michael Cera may just have crossed over."

Michael Cera Backlash? Buzzfeed, "About a year ago."
"He's getting his big chance to become the new John Cusak with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist opening this weekend, but the internets are rumbling that he's always playing the same character, and it's getting old. Whatever, haters. More awkward-adorableness for the rest of us."

BREAKING: Michael Cera Backlash Brewing – Losanjealous, September, 2008.
"First Defamer put it out there that M.C. is apparently passing on the long-rumored much-anticipated A.D. movie. Today, Wells springboards off this Sun.'s NYT profile and pretty much nails it. But, to [over]simplify, maybe it's just all about the damn fleece zip hoody sweatshirts."

Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman Do the Weather – Urlesque, August, 2010.
"As the reviews and internet will tell you, we're in the midst of a bit of a Michael Cera backlash… Is it because he plays the same character in every movie? Does he even play the same character in every movie? How can you play the same character in every movie when you played two different characters in your last movie?"

LOL: How To Make a Michael Cera Movie-Slashfilm, January, 2010.
"Michael Cera's same-old-act, and the $7 million opening of his new film, Youth in Revolt, seems to suggest it might be more widespread than just a couple of my friends. High Definite has created an infographic showing the paint by numbers steps involved in creating a Michael Cera comedy."

The rise and fall of Michael Cera and the rise and fall of his backlash has been going on for the last two years-and, too be fair, some of the credit for that goes to big blogs that can make up narratives out of very little.

But all of this should be looked at before going over to a recent NPR article addressing the negative criticism Cera's newest movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is receiving. The movie was pretty well-liked by the people who saw it, standing at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes currently. Thing is, in two weeks, it's being called a bomb, because it made $20 million-and it cost $60 million to make. (It'll make it's money back eventually.)

Linda Holmes' NPR article about Scott Pilgrim… might be the first of its kind-that is to say, it's a well-written, respectful and thoughtful piece from a journalistic institution-putting it out there that maybe the youth of America are on the other side of a culture change that most older people simply aren't going to get.

"Hating Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is perfectly fine. It's got a style; you sort of embrace it and dig it or you don't. But when there's too much effort given to tut-tutting the people you imagine to be enjoying it, or declaring and promising that only narrow categories of losers and non-life-havers and other stupid annoying hipsters could possibly be having a good time when you're not, it sounds pinched and ungenerous. And, not to put too fine a point on it, a little bit jealous and fearful of obsolescence."

The article goes on to address the strange apprehension and hatred Scott Pilgrim… in particular is causing because of how clearly niche it is. (For those uninitiated Scott Pilgrim… is based on a series of graphic novels. What the story boils down to is a meditation on 8-bit video games integrated into a comic book romance story, featuring what may be the quintessential Canadian superhero, a slacker living on his parents' money, whose name is Scott Pilgrim.)

And yes, it's as niche as it gets. It's essentially the film equivalent of a magical comic book shop in Williamsburg. It's clearly not for everyone. And the reason this comes back to Michael Cera, is that just by the way it's worked out, he's the same cup of tea. You either get him or you don't.

Movies like Scott Pilgrim or The Expendables or Piranha 3-D or any of the zillion other irony-tinged movies coming out this year are shining a light on the greater generational divide between-well let's use the groan-inducing term "millennials"-and older audiences. You could blame it on jadedness or a media-savvy or go so far as to say millennials as a group just don't seem to value real art.

But while youth culture may rule, it's member-consumers are fickle-and when you're only going after the under-34 demo, you're not going to sell any tickets to 35-year-olds and you run a chance of bombing with the kids. All over TV and film are images and shared experiences that might not be true for all of America, especially an older America.

The only really unfortunate thing in all of this is that Michael Cera just isn't that great of either an actor or business entity on which to stake the demo's buying power. ("Michael Cera Couldn't Open an Envelope" is what The Wrap is going with today.)

So on the one hand, Cera is the target of older critics that don't get his brand of "humor," and on the other Cera plays the same character in every single movie and we really don't have a good young 21st-century leading man, yet. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is too peripheral; Robert Pattinson and Nicholas Hoult and Daniel Radcliffe and William Moseley too English and too tied to their main roles. Who else? Josh Hutcherson is too young-Michael J. Fox. Max Records isn't getting any work. But the demand for a real, non-vampire, truly millennial male star is there, and it's only a matter of time before we get someone better.

70 Comments / Post A Comment

HiredGoons (#603)


Neopythia (#353)

I liked him in Arrested Development.

AL (#890)

I'm going to choose to believe the problem with that interview Jason Schwartzman, whom I hate.

David Cho (#3)

I still like Michael Cera and I like this picture of him! It made me lol!

How can one hate Michael Cera? He looks like a little test tube baby (Or at the very least, a sickly child with iron-poor blood).

Seriously: Can someone fetch the dear boy a robust multivitamin?

zidaane (#373)

Michael with the Jersey Shore cast was classic.

AL (#890)

The "Michael Cera always plays the same character" line is kind of tired. So does Will Ferrell, and he's done well. I think the specific problem, as stated in the preceding paragraphs, is that the Cera character is one that a lot of people hate.

"Clark & Michael" earned him a lifetime pass from me, and I hope he gets back to writing before his star cache is totally blown.

djfreshie (#875)

FUCKYES Clark and Michael.

Just for consistency, I hate Will Ferrell, too.

evilfred (#2,351)

I'm starting to understand how people felt in the 90's when they were lumped into the "gen-x" group all the time.

re: actors:

"Joseph Gordon-Levitt is too peripheral"

Does this mean he's in too many indie-ish movies? What about Inception? Maybe he's just trying to establish himself?

"Nicholas Hoult… too tied to their main role"

What's his main role? The guy from the first 2 seasons of "Skins"? He seems to be doing quite well lately, separate from that…

lotsoftreble (#2,715)

Jesse Eisenberg, people. Jesse Eisenberg.

jfruh (#713)


Bittersweet (#765)

Eisenberg at least looks like he's going/gone through puberty…

deepomega (#1,720)

He also looks like he has pictures of Cera painted on the insides of his eyelids as a constant reminder of what he's striving for.

Asa (#1,055)

YES. I saw "Holy Rollers" at a film festival awhile back, in which he is excellent.

I loved Scott Pilgrim, for the record. Best work I've seen Cera do outside of A.D.

Miles Klee (#3,657)

Are y'all serious? Eisenberg is in a whole different league as far as acting chops. Paul Dano too.

HiredGoons (#603)

I actually know Jesse Eisenberg, he is a very nice and modest kid.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

@Goons: Are you asking why I can't just date a nice Jewish boy?

HiredGoons (#603)

*call me

Maevemealone (#968)

Sorry Goons, but I Eisenberg gives me the serious creeps, nice guy or not. Until he's cast as a serial killer, I can't even watch him.

I really liked this movie and can't believe it bombed to massively. I am not a Michael Cera fan and have only seen Juno and AD. So perhaps I am not as burned out on him as other movie goers.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I am also really disappointed to hear that it did so badly at the box office. Stuff this fun and inventive should rake in the dough.

joshc (#442)

Despite it's terrible box office, it's reputation seems to be doing OK. More than any other movie this summer, it's the one that my friends seem to be seeing most. It seems like every day since its opening, I've gotten various electronic invitations to see it (and follow up tweets of joy after the credits roll).

pemulis (#903)

Not trying to play some sort of back-backlash game here, but I think Cera is genuinely a talented, funny actor. "Clark and Micheal" is incredibly solid, as were some of his earlier YouTube goofs. It seems like the movies I've seen him in where I don't like him very much (Nick and Norah, Year One) are more problems of surrounding execution.

(And yes, yes, he plays one type of character. So does nearly every comedic actor in existence, with the exception of a rare genius like Peter Sellers.)

Joshua Love (#7,079)

Gordon-Levitt could conceivably be Max Records' dad. Weird to lump the two of them in together.

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Max Records is like 13 years old. Leading boy, maybe, but he's got a ways to go before hes a leading man.

My personal hatred for Michael Cera derives mostly from writers and producers shoving his persona down my throat (ahem) as an acceptable, even ideal, male lead/romantic interest.

Looking and acting like a 14-year-old when you're 22 isn't sexy. It is not endearing. As a female with a healthy sense of her own sexuality I'm a bit insulted that it's supposed to be. You would need SO MUCH GREY MATTER UP THERE to look and act like Michael Cera and get me into bed.

Men. Are better. Than boys. Think about it, Hollywood.

That's what it is, he's become pretty unappealing as a character that has sex. Cusack you could buy as a guy who had sex and was sexually appealing. Not so much with the fawny bad actor Cera, + it's led to some creepy reviews, too, like Armond White on SP: "Cera's child-like mouth and soft chin that-to borrow an infamous John Simon quote-"slips irretrievably into his neck" gives him a believable dweeb identity, whereas a more outwardly masculine lead might seem vain and narcissistic." EW EW EW EW EW, right?

Multiphasic (#411)

Speaking of Cera as the new Cusack, I'm not entirely certain how his sins are in any way worse than the Cuse's. Overworked shtick directly embodying some sort of idealized generation-specific sensitive-male boyfriend and/or self-identity. The difference between the two? Cusack disappeared long enough to re-emerge playing deliberate worst-case-scenarios of his own teenage characters.

Give Cera ten years, a gun, and one of Minnie Driver's unidentifiable accents and you'll love him all over again.

"You know, when you started getting invited to your ten year high school reunion, time is catching up."

"Are you talking about a sense of my own mortality or a fear of death?"

"Well, I never really thought about it quite like that"

"Did you go to yours?"

"Yes, I did. It was just as if everyone had swelled."

Moff (#28)

Totally. But I think it's fair to say Cera has gotten a lot more exposure than Cusack ever did at the height of his 1980s career, first because there are a lot more media, and second because his target demographic is inherently one of the most entertainment-aware in history. Plus, there's the whole "going from unknown sensation on Arrested Development to worldwide movie star" thing, which the cool kids always instinctively hate.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Man, I loved Grosse Pointe Blank. It hasn't held up nearly as well as I would have liked, but when it came out, I was all 'bout it.

Favorite movie ever.

barnhouse (#1,326)

I loved Scott Pilgrim despite the weak-tea love story (the big problem, I think, with Cera: zero SA, at least so far.) What a gorgeous spectacle this movie is. It is incredibly clever the way they worked all the conceits of the early Nintendo games into the movie; nobody who has massacred as many Marios as I have could help but love it, I reckon.

Moff (#28)

Was it true that he was the one cast member who wouldn't commit to the Arrested Development movie awhile back? Because that pissed me off. If anyone owes his career to that show, it's him.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Because Mitchell Hurwitz is synonymous with long-form long-forminess? If Cera blocked the deal, well, Ramis thought Year One was gonna be great — Cera probably thought he had enough strikes without a hit.

My RX: watch all three seasons of AD another ten times, and skip the Mr. F story line every other time round.

sunnyciegos (#551)

@Moff – My theory is that the "Michael Cera won't commit" storyline was blown out of an interview one of the other cast members gave that made MC sound like an asshole – in other words, playing into Cera's dopey-asshole-schtick that he likes to do every now and then, and teasing him for become the show's breakout star. Then it got taken literally, and etc.

I do think he threatens the erstwhile AD movie, though, as it would have been much better placed while he was still ascendant. Not sure there's a space for the movie now, if anyone is still thinking of making it.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@Moff, sunny: That is true. I think it was a Will Arnett interview where he jokingly accused Cera of big-timing everyone else in the cast.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

> that great of either an actor or


dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Who will create the RedInkSeeMe avatar first.

JUST SAYING DEPARTMENT: I am 35 and I loved this movie. (My 32-year-old sister, not so much. She said it reminded her of why she disliked Ghost World. So maybe the generational divides are more subcultural?)

BUT it seems like the marketing for this particular flick, despite being very budget-taxing, was kind of scattershot and all wrong; it focused too much on a tiny, self-reflexive group of people who were probably going to see the flick anyway? I understand not wanting to give away the movie's "tricks" as they are, but the commercials probably would have been more interesting to the casual fan had they shown less michael cera kissyfaces and critical/commentariat raving, and more of at least one of the battle scenes. People like watching other people knock the coins out of one another!

barnhouse (#1,326)

TRUE. Even the poster was incoherent and gave no clue to the intensity of visual delight in this movie. The pace, too, so fast, just a blizzard of jokes.

deepomega (#1,720)

Hated the posters, but they were pretty much ripped from the comic. Don't know why they didn't use more art from the fight sequences to push this shit.

HiredGoons (#603)

Love Ghost World! Remember when Scarlett Johansen could act!?


mrschem (#1,757)

Hey Thora, how have you been? What you been up to?

It wasn't that she could act. It was that the role didn't really require her to do much beyond act all ennui-soaked.

elecampane (#1,877)

Is Danny Wylde the Michael Cera of XXX or did I just make that up on the basis of one scene with Sasha Grey?

KarenUhOh (#19)

Cautionary tale, people: Jerry Lewis. If the Vichy were still in charge in France.

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

Ugh, who even has the energy to hate Micheal Cera these days? Our country is being taken apart by lunatics and morons and people are worried about how twee the kid from Arrested Development still is. Seriously, fuck it.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

God, I hate these kinds of arguments. So, so stupid.

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

Just saying, there are way more interesting and deserving people to hate running around out there than this kid. Also, I thought Scott Pilgrim was a delight. So there.

Chuckell (#6,080)

I also LOVED the movie. Didn't expect to, just went 'cause I'll watch anything with high production values. And I LOVED it, walked out grinning from ear to ear, laughed and laughed. And I'm fucking 42.

Matt Moore (#4,536)

So is Alexander Skarsgard too old, too vampire, and too Swedish to be the next-gen leading man? He's the best part of True Blood, and he's got Generation Kill on his fangless resume.

Asa (#1,055)

He's a contender! So good in Generation Kill. And let's not forget his unforgettable role in the video for Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi".

NinetyNine (#98)

Yeah, well, Slacker and Clerks didn't cost $60MM. So if Williamsburg 2009 is the equivalent of Singles and Reality Bites, I'll buy that.

Because the Williamsburg of 1991 was Theory of Achievement.

laurel (#4,035)

I sometimes wonder if anyone on the crew of Theory of Achievement bought any real estate after making that movie.

Matt (#26)

The $60 mil thing has been stuck in my craw, too. Also, this bit of Mike's review:

Movies are old enough and big enough now that their artistic expectations have become indistinguishable from their technical features; somehow, the need to have a male protagonist is as unavoidable as keeping a film under two hours, or lining the sound up with the visuals.

The Scott Pilgrim comic was put out by a Portland-based indie. It was completely in black and white. The movie is from Universal and it's a starring vehicle for the assumed 'alt it boy' of the moment.

To keep it in the '90s, it would be like Warners throwing millions after Love and Rockets or something. (Obviously Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a whole other can of worms because THEY WERE GIANT TURTLES WHO KNEW KARATE.)

It just doesn't make sense. Why not have a smaller studio put this out with a smaller budget and let O'Malley retain some more creative control? Why do they have to follow the formula? WHY DO COMEDY MOVIES ALWAYS HAVE TO HAVE GOOD AND BAD GUYS?

I mean, Starbucks can sling Dylan and Stones CDs, but they're not exactly pushing Of Montreal or anything, right?

buzzorhowl (#992)

The shittiest part is that, for anyone who actually read the goddamn comic, it is clear that Scott Pilgrim, as a character, is A MILLION MILES from Michael Cera's George Michael character (who, I agree, he plays in every movie). People who didn't know the comic–which was rather obscure–thought they were gonna see Nick And Nora's Infinite Playlist redux. And honestly, they may have–I haven't scraped up the dough to see the film yet–but if they did, it's only further proof that Cera was a horrific miscasting of the role of Scott Pilgrim.

elecampane (#1,877)

"Young, middle-class, white, college-educated, unskilled, broke, drunk." Proposal: Awl roundtable.

Michael Angarano is funny and talented. Nor is he at all bad-looking, having grown a chin and all.

Perhaps more importantly, he has been starring in a lot of different types of movies, products that can be marketed to a wide range of demographics. So he has been able to work a ton without becoming overexposed– if anything, he is still well below most people's radar. This seems to be a key element of maintaining ones stardom: the ability to work hard while avoiding bugging the shit out of people. It also helps that he seems genuinely– not affectedly– self-deprecating, a qualiy that will continue to help him emerge unscathed from schlock. Speaking of another skill that can't be undervalued.

Now, if he would only star in more actually good films…

katiechasm (#163)

Scott Pilgrim's problem was that it was too niche for mainstream audiences to find appealing, but not cool enough for the demographic it was aimed at.

Not that I saw it… the Ting Tings song in the trailer was a red flag.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

I was under the impression mumblecore was what we thought of as millenial moviemaking.

Leon (#6,596)

I was thinking, I am a straight male who I guess is a "milennial" or "gen y" (though cuz of an early entry into music I still feel like i grew up on Kurt more than Brit but whatever). I was just thinking – he's almost 50 and all, but can George Clooney be the leading man of my generation?

I'm so sick of having people think we are mopes because we were born in the 80s. I don't even dislike Michael Cera, I'm just sick of people pretending he represents all of us. Not that I'm anything like George Clooney, but if people are going to keep talking about us as if we're one big unified group, can we at least stereotype me as somebody who would make "Good Night and Good Luck" and that sexy women want to do sexy things to? Thanks.

paperbackwriter (#2,844)

…all of sudden everyone starts to notice a shy, quirky, weird kid playing a character named George Michael played by actor Michael Cera.

Talked about your awkwardly nested sentences. So everyone started noticing Michael Cera playing a kid playing George Michael?

paperbackwriter (#2,844)

Speaking of typos… I REGRET NOTHING.

sbma44 (#2,565)

Also: "it will make back it's money"; irritating (and worse, inconsistent) use of ellipses behind "Scott Pilgrim" when abbreviating the name.

Sigh. What have I become?

I'm not a Cera hater (honestly!) but given how note-perfectly every other role was cast (e.g. Alison Pill *is* Kim Pine) I can't say he was any better than adequate in the role.

Also? Is it OK to love love love the comic book and movie even in your mid-40s? I'm asking on behalf of a friend.

mcbeachy (#548)

Leading man contender: Ryan Gosling? In my book he is an excellent actor and will go a distance.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt also good but teeters toward goofy.

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