Scott Pilgrim vs. the World : a Fizzy Double Feature!

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fizzy double feature of rom-com sweetness and video-game fights

  • Double Negative

    Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

    Michael Cera is the Peter Pan of the millennial generation: at 22, he seems stuck in preadolescence, his appearance nearly the same as it was in his early TV roles and in starring stints in Superbad, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Youth in Revolt . His voice hasn't changed yet, and his only facial hair is his eyebrows. What was the name of his breakout TV show in 2003? Ah, yes: Arrested Development .

    Even when playing someone his own age — the hero of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — Cera seems like the movies' coolest, most reticent tween. A Toronto layabout who plays in the not-so-hot rock band Sex Bob-omb, Scott shares a bed but nothing more with his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin); has an intensely platonic relationship with a high school girl, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong); and on the night he finds true love with dream girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), spends it with her but doesn't have sex. A lot of us would like to be half our ages, but if a guy is 22, he maybe doesn't want to be 11.

    Then again, since so many action movies play out kids' video-game fantasies of blowing stuff up, and since guy comedies trade largely in school-yard taunts and boys'-room giggles, maybe Cera's wise-child stasis makes him the current ideal of a young star. If so, then Scott Pilgrim is the perfect summation of Hollywood at this moment — an apotheosis of American male infantilism — and, on its own, a most likable mess.

    Very closely adapted from the first of Bryan Lee O'Malley's six Scott Pilgrim comic books, the film was directed by Edgar Wright , the Englishman who sublimely mashed genres in Shaun of the Dead (rom-com meets zombie movie) and Hot Fuzz (a quirky cop comedy that flares into a splatter fest). So he's just the gent to take on a love story that's also a martial-arts showdown: in order to win Ramona's hand, Scott must do battle, video-game style, with her seven evil exes.

    Pow! Zap! Thud!
    If you're a fan of narrative integrity, stay away. The first half of the movie is an acutely observed character comedy, as we meet the women in Scott's life: Knives; Ramona; the band's drummer, Kim (Alison Pill); and Scott's sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick), all of whom are worthier humans than he. Then the fights begin, people sprout superhero powers at whim, and comic-book visual effects — lightning bolts, heart-shaped kisses, whooshes and thuds — accompany the action as in the old Batman TV show.

    This section can get wearying if you're not Scott's emotional age. But Wright leaves a residue of sweetness from the first part, in which the perpetually immature Scott has to choose among all those fabulous women. That's what makes Scott Pilgrim a fizzy, defiantly schizophrenic semidelight.