Scotty Pilgrim has come unstuck in space.
Scott, 22, bass guitarist of Sex Bob-omb, a Toronto garage band, is a human who jumps from encounter to objective like one playing a video game, endeavoring to get from Level 1 to Level 7 without getting zapped.
Scott is played by Michael Cera, the Generation Y love puppy who in repose resembles a stick figure and in action a human joystick. Both of which make him the right dude for the job.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a ridiculously entertaining romp based on the graphic novels of Bryan Lee O'Malley and directed, with mash-up mastery, by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead).
In this epically charming, if overlong, frolic, framed like a graphic novel (with attendant thought balloons and sound cues), Wright playfully shows how the simultaneity of social networking, the structure of video-game quests, and the language of tweet are redefining modern romance. Cramming every frame with as much visual and aural material as he can, Wright is a guy who gets all the neurons firing.
He imagines Scott as a Street Fighter Lancelot out to win the heart of his Guinevere, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a mercurial punkette whose moods are as changeable as her hair color.
To earn Ramona, Scott first must dispose of her "seven exes" (as in past squeezes). And unwind his relationship with perky high-schooler Knives Chao (Ellen Wong), his number-one fan and stalker. And ignore his nosy sister (Anna Kendrick) and nosier roommate (Kieran Culkin) who are texting and kibitzing about Scott's every move.
Scott's habit of looking at himself looking at himself as others look at him is both the height of narcissism and a function of modern technology that makes the user the center of the universe.
It is also the stuff of a comedy that is both self-conscious and self-parodying in the manner of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. Meaning that people over 30 can enjoy Scott while getting only half of its pop-culture references.
The first hour of the film was so funny that my smile muscles hurt. But into the second, I started wishing Ramona had three fewer exes and could close the deal with Scott.
How does one who fears that movies are borrowing too much on the canned visuals and ritualized conflicts of video games reconcile that with her affection for Wright's sneakily funny movie?
His casting of recognizable humans with deft comic timing helps the cause. As does the witty deployment of musical cues, technology sounds, manga framing, and great comic business. In a world where everything is zapping at supersonic speed, stopping to watch a character sl-o-o-o-w-l-y tie his shoes is very, very funny.
For those, like me, who feel that gaming encourages technological isolation rather than human connection, the film's conclusion that love is a two-player game came as a bonus.