If the medium is the message, then Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a masterpiece. Director Edgar Wright has tried to incorporate the look and feel of videogames in his adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels. The result is a film that grabs you right away with its lively, irreverent approach to storytelling…although the timing and attitude aren’t very different from Wright’s British TV series like Spaced, which starred Simon Pegg.
The movie not only appropriates videogame imagery but implies that its hero’s life is a giant three-dimensional game where points are scored at important junctures. There is even the occasional opportunity to “continue” or engage in a—
—do-over. All of this is fun to watch, but the razzle-dazzle can’t camouflage the fact that the story is routine. By the time the movie reaches the home stretch its thinness is all too apparent.
What saves it drowning in its own cleverness is the cast. Michael Cera is perfectly cast as the title character, an ordinary guy who plays in a garage band and seems to have trouble maintaining a healthy relationship with a woman. When he meets the girl of his dreams (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and learns that she comes with baggage—seven deadly exes, to be exact—he will not be deterred.
Cera, Winstead, and such talented costars as Kieran Culkin, Alison Pill, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Mark Webber, and Ellen Wong add life to the proceedings, and adopt a uniformly deadpan approach to the script that pays off with some good laughs. Their lively, colorful performances add the one ingredient that can make or break any film, no matter how ingenious: the human element.