With Shaun of the Dead, director/writer Edgar Wright became an instant cult figure in the states, exposing a new audience to his deft appropriation of horror film trademarks melded with a comedic take on the middle-class everyman. Now with Scott Pilgrim, Wright leaves his comfort zone of England, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and original material, all for the first time.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is based on the popular underground graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley that tell the story of the eponymous Pilgrim, a Canadian bass player in his early twenties who must defeat the seven evil exes of Ramona Flowers (a perfectly cast Winstead) in order to date her. O’Malley’s books are rife with pop culture references to classic videogames, indie rock, manga, etc. and read like an hysterical ADD kid’s surreal school doodles. In other words, perfect for Edgar Wright, whose kung-fu musical/digital acid trip translates O’Malley’s work to the big screen with the kind of energy and attention to detail the comic’s deserve.
Michael Cera plays Michael Cera as Scott, but the real stars are the supporting cast. Kieran Culkin is Pilgrim’s gracious roommate/landlord, a kind of sarcastic, gay Yoda to Scott’s Skywalker. Also shining in their small roles are Aubrey Plaza as the foul-mouthed Julie Powers, Anna Kendrick as Stacey Pilgrim, Scott’s younger, maturer sister, and Alison Pill as Scott’s morose ex and the gonzo drummer for their band Sex Bob-omb. Chris Evans, Mae Whitman, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman are all hilariously over-the-top as Ramona’s super-human exes.
Scott Pilgrim’s journey from slacker kid to slightly more mature slacker guy is told through his cartoony kung-fu battles with Ramona’s seven evil exes. Wright litters the film with colorful cues, both visual and aural. Phones literally say “Riiiiing” in the background and familiar computer sounds signify both victory and defeat. Each evil ex has their own unique style and quirk (e.g. Vegan power), and their bouts with Scott are like a hyper-realized fighting game. The evil exes even turn into coins when defeated. All this amounts to both a wonderful adaptation of a truly unique comic, and a fantastic tale of young love for the Nintendo generation.