Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World bills itself as ‘an epic of epic epicness’, but it’s more like a hyperkinetic acid trip fueled by a garage band soundtrack, kung-fu, and jump cuts, then stuffed inside a video game from the mid 90s and spat back out as a comic book.

…and it’s also a bit of a gooey little love story.

If your brain still hurts from Inception, if you’re too x-chromosome for The Expendables, or if you’re too y-chromosome for Eat Pray Love, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a perfectly fun flick full of heart, soul, and copious amounts of butt-kickin’.

Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22-year-old weenie and the bassist for Sex Bob-Omb, a struggling band trying to get on the map in Toronto. He’s in a platonic relationship with high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), and he shares his bed with gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin), but then he spots the purple-haired, über-hip Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and little hearts literally fly around his head. The catch? In order for him to truly call Ramona his girl, he needs to defeat all seven of her exes in extreme hand-to-hand combat.

To say the movie is based on the wildly popular series of six comic books by Bryan Lee O’Malley is only half true; the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World actually is a comic book. Pretty much every sound effect appears on screen, à la the ‘BAM!’s and ‘POW!’s in the old Batman TV series, and the movie is edited to such a frenetic pace that you’ll actually feel like you’re flipping (quickly) through pages. In fact, much of it is a shot-by-shot retelling that clearly relied on O’Malley’s panels as a storyboard. It’s a wildly creative decision by director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), and it makes Pilgrim a super-fun, high-energy head-spinner that’s a bit unlike anything to ever hit the multiplex.

When it’s not in comic book mode, Pilgrim is a full-on video game, reminiscent of old school faves like Mortal Combat. With every ex he defeats, Pilgrim earns more bonus points, which you see accumulate on the screen. At one point, he even reaches up to the top right corner to grab an extra life.

The real joy of Pilgrim, though, is the ingenious characters that O’Malley created. Cera is perfect in the starring role, alternating from dweeby loser by day and hardcore combatant whenever an ex presents him(or her)self. He’s completely believable, and his baby face and child-like voice make you realize that there’s no one else who could have played the part so well.

Winstead is also spot-on as Ramona, and it’s not hard to see why Pilgrim goes through all he does to win her love. Each of the exes (from a gravelly-voiced Van Damme-like actor to a Vegan toughguy, played with the right amount of camp by Brandon Routh) bring more fury than the last, culminating with the ultimate showdown against Gideon (Jason Schwartzman). Special note: Arrested Development fans, keep your eye out for Mae Whitman, who played Cera’s bland girlfriend Ann Veal on the hilarious Fox show. Her role as evil ex number four, Roxy Richter, is one of the highlights of the movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs.the World is pure fun– a crazy, candy-coated circus that’s destined to become a classic in the teen movie genre. While not quite ‘epic’ (thankfully), it’s still one heck of a wild ride.

4.5/5 stars