Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the first rock & roll kung fu videogame youth love story. Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), it’s based on a comic-book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. At times, it may remind you of other films adapted from graphic novels (notably Ghost World), and even of Wes Anderson, but it’s got a madly clever and playful let’s-try-it-on prankishness all its own. It also has Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, a 22-year-old Toronto slacker who plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-Omb and is something of a babe magnet. Cera, with nerdy-verging-on-girly gestures, a voice that sounds like it hasn’t broken yet, and his overall turtle-ish vibe, may be the unlikeliest leading man in the history of cinema — but let’s be clear that I mean that as a compliment. Geeky as he is, he’s so fast, his line readings driven by a hunger that never spills into self-pity, that he gets you on his wavelength by staying one ironically desperate step ahead.
The movie, with its charming visual tropes (phones that literally go ”Ring,” a wheel of fortune that offers Scott two possible responses, one of which he takes), is a romantic comedy that moves at the speed of texting. Scott starts off by dating Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a high school student who adores him; he then falls for Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a violet-haired, doe-eyed punk fatale with seven ”evil exes” he must defeat, as if they were videogame levels, to win her over. Winstead, a born star, is like a kewpie-doll Edie Sedgwick. She makes Ramona a girl worth fighting for, and fight Scott does — a bit too much, by the end. I dug the freshness of Scott Pilgrim, but I wish that it had a little less kick-ass. Still, it’s a true original. B+