The level-up, super fun, dance-dance, pop culture, max-combo, rock-n-roll romance video game film of, well, forever. If the previous statement left you bewildered and confused, however, it’s unlikely anyone will be able to explain this movie to you.
Scott Pilgrim (Micheal Cera) is just your average twenty-something, wannabe rock-n-roll guy still carrying the emotional baggage of the girl who dumped him a year before. Aside from hanging out with a seventeen year old groupie named Knives (Ellen Wong) who adores him, Scott has only his music until he meets Romona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead.) Smitten, we wastes no time pursuing her until her first “evil ex” shows up to challenge him to a duel… to the death!
Director Edgar Wright appears to have a knack for genre. Whether it’s a zombie apocalypse (Shaun of the Dead) or a buddy cop action flick (Hot Fuzz), he seems to have an innate understanding of how poke fun with a genre flick while at the same time celebrating it. While Scott Pilgrim is based on a underground comic book filled with Indie rock and eight-bit video game references, the film version plays like a game itself, complete with story lines, romantic encounters, effects-laden martial arts fighting, and all the imaginable pitfalls. Here’s a film that’s actually as fun to watch as it would be to play the game.
Sounds and visuals aren’t the only thing Wright has packed into his film. It’s unlikely that someone watching the film will catch every pop culture reference (including a nod to Flash Gordon’s Ming the Merciless.) While anything goes in Scott Pilgrim’s video game-inspired world, characters (specifically Scott) still have to think stuff up to use, from unlocking achievements (for accessing special weapons) to exploiting back story (by discovering hidden weaknesses in his opponents.) There have been films that attempt to hint at the fact that the movie you’re watching is based on a video game, but this may be the first big budget film selling the idea without pretending it’s anything else.
The cast is prefect for the script. Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells steals every scene he’s in, often prompting Scott into his next fight (“I changed my mind… finish him.”) Mary Elizabeth Winstead balances being the “it” girl with the humility of being a regular person (which, of course, makes her even hotter.) But it’s Michael Cera that has to carry the film in his least loser-like performance yet; in fact, he comes close to being an outright jerk (in danger of becoming another “evil ex?”) before the requisite lessons are learned. While able to put pretty much anything in his imagination into a film like this, what makes Scott Pilgrim vs. the World fun and heartfelt is Mr. Wright knowing when not to go over the top and let his premise work for itself (an achievement that Michael Bay, for example, has failed to unlock with either of his giant alien robot movies.)
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)