Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Directed by Edgar Wright
A movie based on a graphic novel that unfolds like a holographic video game, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is either a witty and kinetic hipster satire (a marriage of High Fidelity and Speed Racer, if they worked) or else a numbing, too-smart-for-its-own-good sarcasm fest (see above, as they are). As helmed by the funniest, punchiest filmmaker of the last decade, Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Pilgrim's non-stop barrage of animated sound effects (Rrrriiiinnnngggg goes Scott's phone; Thonk goes his head against a pole), whip pans, sight and auditory gags, sketch-doodle asides, split screens and beautifully CGI-assisted literalizations of indie rock theatrics—including oceanic soundwaves exploding from amps—just barely avoids becoming an assault and, due to Wright's precise compositions and riotous pacing, does far more than just "bring a comic book to life.
That said, I didn't care about Scott Pilgrim. Not because he's played by Michael Cera in his umpteenth adorably awkward performance, and not because much of the film's dialogue is delivered in obnoxious rat-a-tat monotones, but because slacker Toronto bassist Scott's predicament—jettisoning high school-aged Knives (Ellen Wong) for hair-dyeing Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he must defeat the dream girl's seven exes to win her for keeps—never achieves emotional believability. For all the wry pokes at its title character's epic aspirations (superhero transformations interrupted by diligent shoelace tying, etc.), the film still falls back on emo moping and contrived romantic drama—only in movies do exes pose such anxiety-provoking obstacles to happiness—which makes its video game structure less endearing than self-incriminatingly arrested.
Opens August 13