Despite what you may think, you don’t have to be a video game junkie or of the Comic-Con set to enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Alas, the story is one we’ve all heard before: Boy meets girl, boy meets girl’s rival suitors, boy must defeat rivals to get girl. How we get from point A to point B may be frenetic and wrought with flashy titles farmed from the pages of Scott O’Malley’s 2004 graphic novel, but what’s not to love about a cast of lovably nerdy characters with precise comic timing and a bitchin’ soundtrack?
The Scott Pilgrim vs The World universe that 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) inhabits is a snark-filled, snow-covered Toronto, where the laws of gravity (and just about everything else) are ever so slightly skewed. Scott becomes smitten (actually, obsessed) with the neon-haired and brooding Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who first ignores his advances, but later gives in to his stuttering charms.
As the pair makes their budding romance official, Ramona informs Scott that he’ll first have to battle her seven evil, and in some cases super-powered, exes if he wants to win her heart forever.
In Ramona’s stable of past conquests are a dirt bag skater-turned-movie star (Chris Evans), a telekinetic vegan bass player (Brandon Routh), a pair of Japanese wizard-DJs (Keita Saitou and Shota Saito) and a slimy producer and ringmaster of the League of Evil Exes (Jason Schwartzman).
Spindly and neurotic Scott fights them all in Mortal Kombat-style duels to the death that have him upper-cutting 20 feet into the air or wielding his beat-up telecaster to create a veritable sonic sucker-punch. The ears of the Nintendo generation will perk as a shower of coins appears for Scott’s taking at the successful defeat of his enemies. At one point an 8-bit remix of the Scott Pilgrim theme garnered more than a few chuckles from the male-dominated audience. It goes without saying that suspension of disbelief is key to getting through a film jam-packed full of impossible scenarios and pop-culture references.
But this ain’t just a tale for those of the XY-chromosome variety. Despite Scott Pilgrim‘s firm place on the shelf of the comic book boys’ club, several three-dimensional female characters welcome the fairer sex into the fold. We meet Scott’s effusive and naive high school girlfriend Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who turns out to be not as innocent as she seems and Ramona’s eclectic charm and intangible magnetism are reminiscent of Kate Winslet’s Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Director Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall’s smartly adapted script keeps the film from wallowing in superficial toilet humor, though there’s a smattering of it throughout. Well-cast and likeable supporting characters, including a scene-stealing Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate help keep the film afloat.
As entertaining as this caffeine-fueled flick is, the battles go on a hair too long and progressively lose their luster by the fifth or sixth match-up. At times the film ventures too far into videogame territory, which detaches the emotional commitment we have for our protagonists. But regardless of its weaknesses, Scott Pilgrim strikes the right balance between satisfying fanboys without alienating the rest of us, with a must-have soundtrack to boot.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World review Out of five stars: