When twenty-two year old bassist/video game enthusiast Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, Superbad), literally meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Black Christmas), there are just a few problems: Ramona’s seven evil exes, who Scott will need to battle to the death, how to handle breaking up with Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) the seventeen year old ingenue Scott just began seeing, and Scott’s own evil ex, enormously successful singer Envy Adams (Brie Larson, Greenberg). Can Scott survive these challenges and land Ramona?
When Scott Pilgrim received mixed reviews, often broken down along age lines; several critics complained that they could not navigate the film’s many references to video games and video game culture, right down to the story structure, and that the film felt overwhelming. To these critics, it is difficult for me to respond, as I’ve played enough video games from the Atari through the Playstation 1 (with forays into 2 and 3) to not understand what they are talking about. Surely I missed a reference here and there, but what was important was that this is not merely a film for the “fanboys and fangirls”, but a classic love story told with style, humor and flash to spare by director Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. While it is true that the love story is a little light as we never really get to know Ramona beyond her status as a mystery girl and source of desire for Pilgrim, the film’s sin in this area is no worse than most romantic comedies.
While Pilgrim takes his time to actually grow a pair and be worthy of his status as the protagonist, the supporting cast is a hoot, from band mates Kim (Allison Pill, Pieces of April), Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and Young Neil (Johnny Simmons, Jennifer’s Body), to sardonic roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys), high-strung sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air), and the bitter all-knowing and profane Julie Powers (Aubrey Plaza, Mystery Team). These characters, and more, flesh out Scott Pilgrim’s world, and add much of the comedy. Also highly enjoyable are the seven exes themselves, whose battles Wright crafts into enjoyable, inventive, and often hilarious set pieces. Chris Evans (Sunshine) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) come off far better here than in their outings in superhero movies (also makes one wonder why no one has given Wright a full-fledged superhero film yet), while Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited) uses his considerable smarm to great effect.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World more than makes up for any shallowness of its lead character or familiarity of its tale of love and growing up with a funny script, great cast, and clever direction. A must see for anyone who feels they can navigate the video game inspired set-up.