Generally, you have action movies over here, and you have romantic comedies over there, and that’s the way that Hollywood likes it, even if it’s completely forced and artificial. Thank goodness director Edgar Wright and graphic novelist Bryan Lee O’Malley have come along, then, with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which dares to ask what seems in retrospect like a pretty obvious question: What if that action movie was a romantic comedy?
Based on O’Malley’s series of graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim stars Michael Cera as the title character, an awkward Toronto hipster who plays bass in a band and is “between jobs.” He meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Winstead), at a party, and sets about winning her over. The problem: He has to defeat a league of Ramona’s seven evil exes in video game-style one-on-one combat before their relationship can proceed. As if courtship weren’t already fraught with enough anxiety, Scott is now being literally ambushed by his beloved’s romantic baggage.
Working from source material already packed with pop-culture references and stylistic diversions, Wright translates the manic approach of the comics to the screen, making the look into something cinematic while retaining O’Malley’s sensibilities. The mash-up of movies, music, video games and comic books mirrors the jumbled way Scott and his friends connect with each other, and Wright does an excellent job marrying form and content. The end result is wonderfully unique, like Crank crossed with Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
Wright’s barrage of visual pastiches and funny, whip-smart dialogue also helps gloss over a central romance that’s not as fleshed out as it should be, and the sometimes-wavering metaphor of Scott learning to appreciate the emotional lives of others. Cera once again just plays Michael Cera, but he’s really good at playing Michael Cera, and this is pretty much the ideal vehicle for him (he even acquits himself nicely in the fight scenes). Scott Pilgrim features a lot of old ideas presented in new ways, and that skewed approach manages to make both action and romance seem like the freshest things at the movies.