SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Bryan Lee O’Malley, redefines the cinematic linear narrative by frog-marching it straight into the psyche of the post-adolescent zeitgeist. A slick synthesis of graphic novel and cinema, it becomes much more that just he sum of its parts, it becomes an existential heros journey told in bold strokes and clever tropes. Though none of that would matter a gosh darn if it werent also whomping crazy fun.
The stylized visuals incorporating captions and call-outs to pop culture form a stream-of-consciousness battleground for the eponymous hero as twentysomthing Scott (Michael Cera) must battle his new true loves seven evil exes in order to win her heart and stay alive. He must also battle his own exes, Envy aka Natalie (Brie Larsen) who stomped his heart when her band, but not Scotts, was signed to a lucrative recording deal, and Knives (Ellen Wong), and the naïve high school girl whose heart he broke when he fell for Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the neon-haired post-modern goddess with an all too interesting past and the nagging possibility of a fickle future. Besides those struggles, Scott must also cope with a smoothly urbane yet disaffected roommate, Wallace (Kieren Culkin) with an agenda that includes being Scotts conscience while also being the bane of his existence by being in cahoots with Scotts acerbic sister, Stacey (Anna Kendrick). That he also has a tendency to steal Staceys boyfriends does nothing to threaten the cahoot-ness.
The reality is artificial, the seven exes are fraught with unexpected super powers that includes Bollywood production numbers, enhanced psychic abilities, not to mention nifty hair, thanks to a vegan diet, and an inconvenient penchant for transmuting into smoke. Scotts friends are broadly drawn, but the clever use of personality defining quick takes nicely covers the necessary ground. Edgar Wright, who also directed, chose when adapting the graphic novel, to keep the real emotions confined to the three protagonists at the heart of the romantic triangle Scott creates with his own fickleness. Hair is fuchsia, gravity the merest of suggestions, angry exes and synchronicity go hand in hand, but Wright keeps the emotional stakes acutely real. Ceras puppy dog sincerity coupled with an ingratiating geekiness goes far in getting that across, as does the vulnerability that Winstead projects from beneath that vivid hair and de rigeur ironic cool.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD could easily have been a shallow exercise in arch cinematic posturing, but intelligent choices, a keen sense of how to use the bombastic without being used by it, as well as Ceras turn at once again redefining hipness with his unassuming yet endearingly overwrought self-awareness, does more than make it work. It makes it cool as hell.