Scott Pilgrim is a young man who has a serious identity crisis. And so does this movie. While twentysomething Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is thwarted by a lack of direction in his life and can’t make up his mind in the romance department between doting underage schoogirl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), or sampling somebody more his own age, the alternately cranky and cartoonish comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. The World can’t seem to decide whether it’s a flippant sketchy teen angst weepie, or your basic flamboyant comic book screen transplant.
So if you end up tending to feel as schizophrenic as this indecisively layered movie for the duration, don’t worry about it. Because neither do the characters seem to have much of an idea what’s going on, or really fret about it, as acting comes off more as just goofing around for the camera.
Adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s insanely popular graphic novel and directed by Brit brainiac Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), the mix ‘n match, alternately-slo-mo and breathlessly paced movietoon finds Pilgrim in a decidedly shallow existential bind. Recently dumped by his girlfriend, Scott repairs his broken heart, or so it seems, by embarking on a celibate fling with nonthreatening smitten Toronto high schooler, Knives. That is, until he becomes obsessed with trading her in for sexier, comparatively older local seductress, Romana Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Who may be into changing boyfriends as frequently as her glow in the dark hair colors.
Much of the ensuing hyper-hi tech flash and sparkle digitalized imagery impressively mesmerizes. But the story, which amounts to a chaotic series of romantic rivalries and beatdowns punctuated by musically inclined Pilgrim’s battle of the garage band showdowns, fails to live up to all the visual hype assembled on its behalf on screen. Even if Kieran Culkin appears to be working overtime to inject a badly needed lifeline of comic relief into these bratty when not mock brooding proceedings, as Pilgrim’s gay roommate and possible sarcastic Greek chorus as well.
So is Wright rooting for his raging hormone, terminally moronic teen mode cast of characters, or casting a condescending eye on their self-indulgent pity party small world view. Hard to tell. Let’s just say that the PG-13 rating might very well refer to an advisory that nobody above rather than below that age, is likely to benefit.