In one scene late in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a background character can be overheard grumbling that the film adaptation isn't as good as the comic book. It's a cute meta-moment from cowriter/director Edgar Wright, the best nerd-friendly director in the world (sorry, Joss Whedon, but you know it's true), possibly intended to preempt the most common comic-fan criticism of them all. But it's kind of unnecessary: Scott Pilgrim keeps the manic pacing and basic premise of Bryan Lee O'Malley's comics—Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falls for a girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and has to defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her—but it pleasantly diverges in several notable ways.

Whereas the comics take place over the course of roughly a year and a half, the movie spans a week, making the cinematic Scott and Ramona's budding romance less of a journey to mature understanding between adults and more of a movie-friendly puppy-love situation. And while the endings have some similarities—O'Malley was working on the sixth and final Pilgrim volume at the same time that the film was shooting—they're ultimately different. One doesn't supplant the other; each can stand on its own merits.

And, boy, does this movie have some merits. The casting is note-perfect, with not one of the supporting actors out of place. After the doltishness of The Losers, it's such a relief to see that someone knows how to cast Chris Evans (he really shines in slightly self-aware jackass roles), and the normally staid Brandon Routh's telepathic vegan is probably his funniest work to date. The soundtrack, too, is exactly as it should be: Garage-rock contributions from Beck and Frank Black provide that antsy early-20s vibe even as classic Nintendo video-game sound effects are layered into the background on a nearly subliminal level. The innocence and charm of O'Malley's creation survives the leap to the screen, making this one of a handful of truly great comics adaptations.

You haven't seen a movie like this, because there isn't a movie exactly like this. Written sound effects appear in the background when a surprisingly physical Cera punches or leaps or even clicks on a light switch. Orgiastic comic-book battles break out like dance numbers in a Fred Astaire musical. It's a messy, energetic, expressionistic movie that would probably make a control freak like Kubrick put a hot compress over his eyes for a week or two, a pop-culture feast shoved into a blender and sprayed all over a theater, the way that scores of old men (like Oliver Stone in Natural Born Killers) have tried and failed. The trick, the difference between Stone and Wright, is that Wright comes from a place of love; he adores the world of video games and cartoons and Seinfeld reruns, and so does Cera's Pilgrim. It turns out that amid all the television in-jokes and the candy-colored garbage of our youth, there's plenty of room for love to bloom. recommended