I'm neither hip nor cool. If you rounded my age up you'd hit 40 and if you asked me if I'd read the Scott Pilgrim novels I'd have
Then I watched the film, and what I saw was one of the purest, sweetest, funniest, and most dead-on accurate portrayals of "young male in love" syndrome that I've ever seen in a cinema. One need not be a hip youngster or a seasoned film critic to see what's going on beneath the surface of this powerfully entertaining movie -- but it certainly helps to approach this strange little experiment with an open mind and a youthful heart. Anyone who dismisses this film as youth-pandering video game ephemera simply isn't looking closely enough.
Directed with a stunning amount of wit and energy by Edgar Wright (he also brought you Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is about an average young Torontonian who falls madly in love with a wide-eyed but slightly melancholy girl named Ramona Flowers -- but poor Scott has to withstand so much more than just building up the courage to ask for a date. As it turns out, Ramona actually kinda digs Scott, but let's just say this lovely young gal comes with a lot of old-school romantic baggage.
As in: she's got seven "evil exes" that Scott must defeat before he and Ramona are able to move forward with their delicate love affair. Plus he also has to contend with a pair of excitable ex-girlfriends, a group of intermittently supportive pals, and a whole bunch of emotional barbed wire to climb through. On paper, it sounds like a pretty standard rom-com -- aside from the seven evil exes that Scott has to fight using martial arts, video game power-ups and rock music, I mean.
If ever there were a movie that will appeal to full grown adults who are still intent on retaining some true "childishness,"Scott Pilgrim is it. On the surface it's all video game references and witty quips and movie geek in-jokes -- but (barely) hidden beneath the flick's addictively colorful exterior is a surprisingly insightful analysis of what happens to a young guy when he's in love. On the screen we get to enjoy seeing Scott Pilgrim do battle with ex-boyfriends both handsome and threatening, but that's not really what we're watching at all. The canny screenplay (adapted from the book series by Bryan Lee O'Malley) makes it exceedingly clear that we're watching actually one sweet kid do battle against ... insecurity, uncertainty, and the paralyzing fear of being rejected by a beloved female for someone "cooler."
Sure, the movie happens to mine this subtext early (and fairly often), but Wright and company take a gleefully enthusiastic approach to the material; the subtext complements the surface fun remarkably well and, better yet, vice versa. Taking smart material and then packaging it in such a strange movie is a big risk, and it may end up hurting Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at the box office, but I'd be willing to wager an arcade full of quarters that this flick will enjoy quite a healthy shelf life among the young / young-at-heart who'd like to see a romantic movie that delivers such personal, poignant ideas with an endearingly cockeyed grin. And lots of crazy fighting.
Now that I think about it, I may in fact be the perfect age to fall for a movie like this one. I'm old enough to know what heartache feels like, and I've sure as hell been in Scott Pilgrim's shoes a few times, but I'm also still young enough to appreciate this film's frenetic pace, constant video game references, and amusingly ass-kicking action bits. Mr. Wright's odd little adaptation manages to be sweet, smart, slick and silly all at the same time, and speaking as only one old man: I think this flick is a welcome breath of fresh air in a sub-genre (the, ugh, romantic comedy) that could use a hundred similar breaths of fresh air.
And ladies, keep this in mind: as insane as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World gets (and boy does it get crazy), the film is still a powerfully accurate portrayal of what goes on inside the brain of a smitten and jealous young man. Trust me, it is.