Press Start To Begin: Scott Pilgrim vs The World: A Story of 1-Up-Manship, Or Toronto City Ransom

(Long enough title, huh? Beat feet if you can take the heat, bro. See? With wit like that, I too could have been one of Ramona Flower's ex-boyfriends. The one that never leaves the house. Come over to my house and prepare to die, Scott Pilgrim!)


Scott and Ramona

Party Pooper: Scott Pilgrim (Cera) and Ramona Flowers (Winstead) 


Once upon time, in the magical land of Toronto, Canada, a young man named Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) played bass in a band called Sex Bob-Omb. He also dated a high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), lived with a cool gay roomate named Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), and tried hard to get over Envy Adams (Brie Larson). He's a got this manchild charm common of slackers of his age that happen to wear X-men patches on their coats and smile at the word "lesbian", and despite his snarkiness, poor pure Knives is head-over-heels in love with him. But as soon as he thinks things are all wine and roses (or Coke One and Pizza Pizza), his precious little life is rocked by the appearance of a girl named Romona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).


She's the girl of his dreams. Literally. She skates through his dreams, a faster route to deliver packages for, and his first meeting with her at a hipster mixer does not endear him to her. So what's a boy in love to do? Why, order something to be delivered by her, and hope she'll agree to hang out with him. Luckily, he succeeds. Romona's got an off-beat sassiness to her, and Scott is just as head-over-heels as Knives is for him. Unfortunately, she's got demons of her own, and Scott finds himself under assualt by The League of Evil Exes, who've all been dumped by Romona in the past. On the plus side, they don't all come at once, but on the downside, they want Scott dead, and will do anything to ruin Romona's love life. Don't these people have lives? I guess they're not evil for nothing. I've been told it's quite time-consuming, which is why I settle on bitter and passive-aggressive.   


Scott and friends hanging out.

Scott and the Gang: Scott (Cera), Ramona (Winstead), Young Neil (Simmons), Knives (Wong), Kim (Pill), Stephen Stills (Webber) 


Speaking of bitter and passive-agressive, Scott's bandmates Kim Pine (Allison Pill, who I recogize from an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent) and the appropriately named Stephen Stills ("the talent") (Mark Webber) are looking to make it semi-big by scoring a record contract as the prize of a battle of the bands tournament, which also draws the attention of Scott's own semi-evil (or at least extremely bitchy) ex and one of Romona's, which makes things very hectic for our Plumtree loving hero.


If you haven't yet read the six-volume manga-style comic by Bryan Lee O'Malley, who valiently overcame the handicap of being Canadian (as many of these brave actors and actresses do), you may not fully appreciate the effort put into capturing the comic's spirit (if not always the letter) on the big screen. I do. But trust me, you won't need to have read it at all to enjoy this fun ride into a video-game inspired, indy music-loving, snarky, snappy celebration of the geek chic. Er, and the geniunely geeky, too.


There's an assortment of big names in this movie including Chris Evans (of Fantastic Four) as the action star Lucas Lee, Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as Envy's new boyfriend Todd Ingram (sporting vegan psychic powers that would make Superman blush), and Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, Funny People) as manipulative club owner Gideon Graves. But the real draw isn't the star power, the endless cuteness of Knives, the 80s/90s video game framing/referencing, or even the awkward fumfering of Cera's Scott (which isn't as cocky as I'd have preferred, as a fan of the comic, but serves well enough).


The real draw is that as a viewer, I actually Envy (haha) the tenacity of the story to be both nerd-sating and somehow still pulls the heart strings. Maybe it's just the music selling the emotions, but I want to see Scott make it off with Romona into the subspace void. I want to see Knives recover from Scott's brush off. I certainly want to see Gideon get his coins knocked out. I even want to see how a certain promised brunch turns out. But most importantly, I want a copy of Ninja Ninja Revolution, which I'll play after watching Action Doctor".


It's not a perfect adaptation nor a perfect movie. It condenses quite a bit, simplifies or even cuts out certain characters and plot elements, and even seems to suffer from exhaustion just near the end. Whereas the comic took place over month, this seems to happen over a matter of weeks. What suffers the most from this is Scott's burgeoning relationship with Ramona. Whereas with Knives we get a good grip on their relationship in opening scenes, it often feels difficult to grasp Scott and Ramona's growing feelings, except through some vague argumenets about Scott's irritation over the attacking exes. We know why he wants her, but we don't get enough of why he wants to keep on with her, especially after all this trouble.


But a few flaws aside, this is a very celebration of what Scott Pilgrim is about. In fact, it handles some of it better than the comics. No drawn-out drama, no excessive plot threads, character overload, or long lulls in the tempo. This is a fast and furious riff on a guitar known as awesomeness. I still miss the Chrono Trigger reference from the final battle in the comic, though. Damn it, Edgar Wright, that's my favorite video game, never remove a reference to it! Now I shall recruit six other Chrono Trigger fans and form The League of Nitpicky Nerds! And we will wreck you... on the internet! After our mothers feed us our dinners! Prepare!

I can do that... I just don't want to.

Level Up!: Scott (Cera) shows us the results of his training in Ninja Ninja Revolution.


(Scott Pilgrim vs The World is 112 min long and is a Universal Pictures film and is out in theaters now.)

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