Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Michael Cera in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Photo: Universal Pictures

I walked into Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with no idea what to expect. I hadn’t seen a single trailer, never read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels that inspired the film and had no idea what it was about. I heard the cheers from the online masses — excited one of their favorite directors was tackling one of their favorite comic characters — but that kind of fanfare typically signals warning signs for those that exist outside of the comic book crowd. Perhaps that’s exactly why Scott Pilgrim blew me away. My expectations were set at “I don’t know” and I walked out saying, “Wow! That was awesome!”

“Awesome,” in fact, feels like a perfect adjective for this film, which turns the life of its lead character into an 8-bit Nintendo-style video game. Navigating this fantasy architecture is 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim played by Michael Cera (Superbad) with the same comedic reservations he’s offered in most of his films, but for good reason… It works. And this time he gets a chance to kick a little ass.

Scott has set his sights on the local new girl, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Unfortunately, such a decision comes with a price. In order to date Ramona he’s going to have to defeat her seven evil exes, all of which are coming to kill him. As the film plays on it turns into a multi-leveled video game and at the end of each level Scott must face off against the increasingly difficult challenges offered by Ramona’s exes. But don’t let such genre defining characteristics scare you.

Understandably, such a description can turn off a certain audience sight unseen, and while Scott Pilgrim may have a target audience primarily made up of people of the Super Mario era, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone not having an all out blast with this film. As much as I was entertained by the ludicrous action sequences I couldn’t stop myself from laughing at the antics in-between. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, make no mistake, is blockbuster entertainment of the highest order, though certainly not your traditional blockbuster. Dare I say it’s actually… unique?

It would seem co-writer/director Edgar Wright can do no wrong in my book after the endlessly entertaining horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead, the equally impressive buddy cop parody Hot Fuzz and now Scott Pilgrim. Wright brings an exhausting energy to this movie that never lets up for a second. It’s a wonder he even had the fortitude to complete post-production as every cut, sound effect, word bubble and snarky comment is so appropriately timed there’s hardly a misstep.

His casting is equally impressive. From Michael Cera on down, each character brings a different personality trait to the screen that absolutely covers all bases including the members of Scott’s rock band Sex Bob-omb (Allison Pill and Mark Webber), his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin), his highly critical sister (Anna Kendrick), the easy-going Young Neil (Johnny Simmons) and then there’s Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) the obsessed high-schooler with one of the best names you’re likely to hear all year. I won’t get into listing all seven evil exes but the self-obsessed actor Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) and Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman) were my favorites.

In terms of video game homages no stone is left unturned, a cue from “Seinfeld” is used to inspire the theatrics of a whole scene and each fight scene plays like something of a cross between Looney Tunes and “Street Fighter.” Best of all, you don’t have to be familiar with anything I just said to enjoy this movie.

Beyond all the video game and television references, what makes Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a satisfying movie is the love story at its heart. Edgar Wright may have used a video game style to tell his story, but the search for love is something that translates over no matter the medium. It’s the reason anyone of any age will find this story relatable while everything else is what makes it an all out blast.