Based on the graphic novel series of the same name, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a genre-bender — it's part action flick, part rock and roll anthem, part romantic comedy. Overlaid with whimsical video game effects, it's a risky combo to employ for a mainstream film, but director Edgar Wright has executed it so confidently and with such commitment that it's a triumph.
Michael Cera is the title character, a bass player in the band Sex Bob-Omb, who mostly hangs out with his friends and deals with the daily drama of his love life. When he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), his mysterious, multicolored-tressed love interest, he falls at his feet to date her. Like any new relationship, there are challenges — specifically Ramona's past, which includes seven angry exes that Scott must fight to the death if he wants to keep seeing Ramona. Not only is his life on the line, each of his nemeses has a mystical power he has to overcome (my favorite? Brandon Routh's vegan-powered psychic abilities). It's fantastical, for sure, but give it a shot: Scott Pilgrim is an energy drink of a movie, an effervescent gem with the aesthetics of a video game and the heart of an indie romance.
To find out why I liked the movie, just keep reading.
The first 45 minutes of the movie are the best: the introduction of each character in Scott's universe is a fast-paced ride (for instance, each person gets an onscreen caption of their name, age, and status), and the witty dialogue that Scott shares with everyone is at its peak in the first act. The actors are uniquely amusing — the standouts include his bandmates (played by Mark Webber and Alison Pill), his meddling roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin), his sister (Anna Kendrick), and high school age girlfriend Knives Chau (Ellen Wong).
However, like these characters, you get so involved in the intricacies of Scott's girl problems that by the time Ramona's first ex shows up to do battle, you have to brace for a tone change. Suddenly, you're in an action movie and being introduced to a whole slew of new characters in the exes (including Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, and Mae Whitman). Therein is my one complaint: Wright is so intent on creating a faithful adaptation that he insists on giving each ex a fair amount of attention, which both lengthens the movie and slows down the energetic momentum.
Still, I was constantly entertained, and I must mention the element of the movie that sticks with you as much as the story or visuals: the music. With a cool, rowdy soundtrack, the film gets a boost of swagger to even out its proudly nerdy foundation. It's a nice fusion that will make you rock out as much as you'll geek out.