Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Mark Webber, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Schwartzman, Mae Whitman, Brandon Routh. (2010, PG-13, 112 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 13, 2010
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World comes from (and compacts) Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-volume graphic novel of the same name, but it's the vernacular of video games, not sequential art, that most informs this glad-hearted and furiously funny piece of pop entertainment. It takes a special kind of skill set – albeit, one osmotically attained by anyone who knows how to bop a Bowser on the head – to process video games' critical bits and filter out the filler, mentally mute the pings and dings, and Scott Pilgrim's barraging exposition, not to mention its plot (guided by one-ups, restarts, and game overs), will probably alienate n00bs with all the primary-colored perplexity of a Japanese game show. But hold on: Even if it were all just a lot of noise – which it's not – oh, what a lovely racket it makes. Using the same impeccably edited referentiality (his pop culture hat tips are built to last) and honest-to-goodness goodness of spirit that made his early works Spaced and Shaun of the Dead so winning, co-writer/director Wright turns his considerable talents here to the timeless tale of boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy battles said girl's seven evil exes in order to win her hand. Boy is Scott Pilgrim, an unemployed indie rocker who spends his days mooching off friends (from the sprawling but distinctive cast of such go-to character actors as Culkin, Alison Pill, and Webber) and ambling around Toronto (playing itself, and cast to perfection). Pilgrim is portrayed by Cera (Superbad), a likable young actor who had anthemicness – "poster boy for a post-post-irony age!" – thrust upon him too soon. He gently strays here from the Cera "type" of shambling lovesick pup – not far, but enough to count. Yes, Pilgrim is lovesick – he's got it bad for an American delivery girl named Ramona Flowers (Winstead), she of the evil exes and Rainbow Brite bob – but Pilgrim is also an unintentional prick, awesomely self-absorbed and responsibility-shy. The battles, then, are his way of growing up and owning up, though Wright (with co-writer Michael Bacall) certainly doesn't stage them so transparently. (Nor does Wright belabor the point that the vanquishing of these ex-lovers in some way represents a loosing of emotional baggage – egads, no.) Instead, Wright takes the tools of a bloodless medium, the video game, and crafts an action-comedy with a true-blue beating heart. So what if it's built on 8-bit?