Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Aubrey Plaza, Ellen Wong, Jason Schwartzman
Rated: PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is aimed at a very specific audience: old-school gaming nerds. Oh, sure, folks outside that group might enjoy it — it’s a charming film with plenty of action — but it seems likely that if you don’t get at least some of the video game references, the film will lose a lot of its appeal.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a slacker in his early twenties who lives in Toronto. He’s in a band which kind of sucks, has no job, and is dating a high schooler. Well, sort of dating. They almost held hands once, but she got embarrassed. His life takes a turn for the interesting when he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an American working as a delivery girl for Amazon.ca. She can travel on subspace highways and do other awesome things, and he is instantly smitten.
Unfortunately, she also has A Past, and Scott must defeat her Seven Evil Exes in order to date her. The film is structured like a video game, with Exes as bosses. Each one is a bit different, and they are increasingly harder to defeat. They have various superpowers which Scott must find a way around, and frequently dress a bit strangely (“What?” one of them says, when asked why he’s dressed like a pirate, “Pirates are in this year!”).
The entire film is ridiculously over the top and is a lot like watching a video game in live action, complete with fight announcements, combos, and leveling up. Oh, and when Scott defeats an Evil Ex, they explode into coins and he sometimes gets a special bonus like a 1-up. If you grew up playing 80s video games and love them, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” is basically two hours of perfection.
Fans of the graphic novels the film is based on will likely be pleased to see how much of the film is straight from the original material. There are differences, particularly toward the end — the film went into production before Bryan Lee O’Malley finished the final volumes — but the entire thing has the same look and feel as the books so the changes don’t feel forced. The one major change that doesn’t entirely work is Ramona’s arc; the film makes her a lot more passive than she is in the books.
Cera is perfect as Scott, and it’s hard to imagine who else could have played him. Scott is self-centered frequently self-deluding, and often behaves like a jerk, but Cera makes him sympathetic and engaging enough that we keep rooting for him as he battles toward his ultimate fight: to gain himself some self-respect and actually own his mistakes. The rest of the cast is equally fantastic, especially Jason Schwartzman as hipster mega-douche (and Final Boss) Gideon Graves and Kieran Culkin as Scott’s roommate Wallace.
Really, the easiest way to tell if you’ll like “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or not is to watch the trailers. They capture the feel of the film very, very well. If the trailers didn’t grab you, stay away. If they did, though, be sure to see it in theaters at least once.