"Scott Pilgrim is dating a high schooler!"
So begins Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the new film from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Spaced director Edgar Wright. It's also the first line of Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, the first volume of the Scott Pilgrim comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley, on which the film is based. The comic book is an amalgamation of comedy, drama, sci-fi, and action run through the filter of video games and garage bands. The movie is an amalgamation of comedy, drama, sci-fi, and action run through the filter of video games and high profile bands. It's a crazy ride, and also the most fun you'll have at the movies this year.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a twenty-something guy living in Canada with his gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin). He's in a band, Sex Bob-omb, and is dating a high schooler, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). However, almost as soon as their relationship starts up, Scott encounters Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and immediately falls for her. And as it turns out, she likes him, too. There is one catch, though. Her last boyfriend, Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), has gathered together all of her past romantic partners into the League of Evil Exes and if Scott wants to be with Ramona, he's going to have to defeat all seven of them. Yep, that's right, seven evil exes, all while navigating the pitfalls of a new relationship, a vengeful ex-girlfriend, and being in a band on the rise.
On paper, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World sounds a little oddball, but on film, it's absolutely ferocious. Edgar Wright already has a reputation as a kinetic filmmaker who makes the most out of every frame (see the immaculately constructed Hot Fuzz for further proof), but with Scott Pilgrim he takes his technical dexterity to new heights. Wright pulls out all the stops, turning the film into a cornucopia of visual delights. The screenplay, by Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall and often taking whole chunks of dialogue directly from O'Malley's comic, is packed tight with jokes and gags. Wright's work is also characterized by his love of cinema, with Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz all filled with countless film references. Here, he puts those on the back burner, and instead turns the world into a giant video game, pulling sound effects and visual cues from Sonic The Hedgehog, Tekken, and many more. The result is that the movie, while clearly an amalgamation of many other elements, looks and feels unique.
I know many have cried foul when they heard Michael Cera would be playing the titular character. While he was hilarious in the criminally underrated TV seriesArrested Development and the Apatow-produced comedy Superbad, Cera's more recently gained himself a reputation for playing the same awkward kid time and time again. Thankfully, Scott Pilgrim brings him out of his shell. While you're not going to forget you're watching Cera, Scott is a genuinely different character for him, and he rises to the challenge. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is stunningly gorgeous as the mercurial Ramona Flowers, but is not given as much chance to shine as Cera. The rest of the cast acquit themselves admirably. The evil exes are all uniformly awesome, with the highlights being Schwartzman as the sleazy Gideon and Chris Evans as skater-cum-action star Lucas Lee. Ellen Wong must have strained quite a few facial muscles playing Knives Chau, and Aubrey Plaza almost steals the show as the caustic Julie Powers. But without a doubt the highlight of the cast is Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells.
Being a huge fan of the comics, which unfolds over six volumes released over the span of as many years, I can't help but feel that at times the breakneck pace of the film does a disservice to the characters. Ramona in particular gets short shrift, as she's much more of an enigma here than in the comics. I can't help but wish that one or two of the exes were removed in favor of giving more time to Ramona and her relationship with Scott Of course, had Wright done that, people would have screamed bloody murder as the evil exes are the film's central premise, but developing a relationship between Scott and Ramona that the audience cares about should be central as well. Wright walks a tightrope between satisfying fans of the source material and making sure the movie works on its own as a standalone piece of work. It's not the biggest issue, and certainly not enough to stop me from a glowing recommendation.
I've been a fan of Scott Pilgrim and his precious little life for a while now, so my expectations going in to the film were insanely high. And, when all is said and done, Wright and company have done a tremendous job of meeting them. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is fast, furious, hilarious, and another step forward for Edgar Wright. It's sheer giddy fun and I cannot recommend it highly enough. See Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, then see it again. Take your friends, your girlfriend, heck, take your seven evil exes. Just see this movie and spread the Scott Pilgrim love!