The cast of SCOTT PILGRIM really nails it, and everyone seems to completely get the unique, slightly-left-of-reality tone that Edgar Wright is going for. I know, a lot of people like to just dismiss Michael Cera, for whatever reason. I get it, he plays pretty similar characters in a lot of his films. But people - what do you *want* him to do? If you need a scrawny, geeky, sort of quirky lead you go with Cera - not just because he looks the part, but because the guy has a ton of talent as well as pitch-perfect comic timing. We've known that since the Arrested Development days. That said, Scott Pilgrim is a much different character than Cera's played before. He's fairly self-confident and in some ways self-assured - his problem is more just that his head is in the clouds and he doesn't quite know what he wants out of life. But this movie is about Scott's journey, and the place he ends up by the film's end is a different one from where he started. It's a lot of fun to see Cera as Pilgrim get that added drive and determination, to see him man up and kick ass and take ownership of his life. Knock him if you want, but this is a great performance from Cera.
There are so many other standouts in the film. Ellen Wong makes a huge impression as Knives Chau, and steals every scene she's in. Knives is perhaps the movie's most fun character, and her transformation from sweet schoolgirl to badass, leather-clad asskicker is a joy to behold. You will geek out for Knives, that's a promise. Kieran Culkan has some of the movie's funniest lines as Scott's roommate, Wallace Wells. The relationship between the two is great - supportive yet antagonistic - and there are some classic dialogue exchanges between them. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is perfectly cast as Ramona. She's the kind of girl who has a past but may just be ready to move beyond it. She's sort of dark, sort of brooding, but you want to root for her to see the light and smile a little more. When she pulls out that giant hammer and fights her evil-ex-gf to save Scott, it's an awesome moment. You get why she just might be worth fighting for. Meanwhile, the Seven Evil Exes are all hilarious and a ton of fun. From Matthew Patel and his demon hipster Bollywood dance troupe to Lucas Lee and his army of stunt doubles. Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Mae Whitman, Jason Schwartzman - they all rock, and all seem perfectly cast as bizarro subversions of the types of role that each actor tends to be known for. Evans is the cocky action-hero-as-asshole. Routh is the preachy, too-perfect uber-Vegan who's now in a band with (and dating) Scott's scornful ex, Envy Adams. Mae Whitman is the rage-filled woman scorned, and she totally owns the part. And then there's Jason Schwartzman - hilarious as Gideon Gordon Graves (aka The G-Man), the sinister-hipster leader of the League of Evil Exes, lurking in the shadows as Scott's final boss battle.
It's funny, because as I was racking my brain trying to think of any flaws with Scott Pilgrim, I briefly wondered if the movie suffered from "adaptation syndrome," in which a lot of minor characters from the source material are included in the film, but become more clutter than anything else. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I loved how complete of a world the movie creates, filled to the brim with colorful characters who are so instantly interesting that you wouldn't mind seeing them in a movie all their own. I'm thinking in particular of the members of Scott's only-okay band, Sex Bob-Omb (Mario Bros. reference alert!) - Kim Pine, Stephen Stills, and Young Neil (gotta love those names). Each member has enough personality that Sex Bob-Ombs' battle of the bands storyline - and their clash with the Envy Adams-fronted Clash at Demonhead (extra points for their name being an awesome obscure Nintendo reference!) is almost a movie in and of itself. Anna Kendrick is also excellent as Scott's sister, Stacey - the voice of reason in Scott's dream-world of power-meters and one-ups. Aubrey Plaza is super-funny as acerbic scenester Julie Powers. Like I said, it's an incredibly talented cast that helps to create this whole entire world for Scott Pilgrim to inhabit. It's quirky, and it's fun, and it feels like a place you just might want to visit again.
The number one star of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World though? Edgar Wright and his team. The visual energy of the movie, the look, the humor, the pacing, the vision - Wright deserves a ton of credit for creating something wholly unique and wholly awesome. From the overall, comic book-like editing of the film to the great little touches (vintage videogame sound/fx, 60's Batman-style action balloons, comic book "secret origins" of the Evil Exes) that give the movie its sensory-overload aesthetic. This movie is absoluely packed with fanboy-friendly moments big and small that kept me giddily smiling throughout. Plus. the action is also just flat-out awesome. Rarely has a movie captured the visceral, frenzied feeling of playing videogames - or the mental reward of defeating them - with such acute accuracy. The movie often plays like a videogame meets rock video. In many ways, you could almost compare the magical realism, the pacing, and the music-heavy nature of the film to a musical. I should mention though that the music in the movie is a ton of fun - the songs are integrated into the action in funny and unique ways, and the songs from the movie's bands are catchy yet rough-sounding, like what you'd actually expect from an amateur battle of the bands.
Still, Wright makes sure to give Scott Pilgrim a hefty emotional core. Again, all of the little visual shout-outs and dialogue references add up to create this portrait of life-as-pop-culture and vice versa. We all go on the same sort of journey as Scott in our own way. But the movie challenges us to be the hero in our own story, to step up and "get a life." Hey, to me, any movie that can use the "Continue?" countdown screen from old arcade games as a giant metaphor for life is possessing of a certain degree of genius. Scott Pilgrim is smart, it's funny, it's a nostalgia trip, and it's not quite like any other movie you've seen. There's action, romance, humor, and heart. So, yeah, it's pretty much the bomb. Okay, the bob-omb. Seriously though, this is one of those films that may end up being divisive, but for my part, I can't recommend it enough. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World delivers a cinematic K-O.
My Grade: A