Directed by Chris Columbus.
Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Ashley Benson and Jane Krakowski.
When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.
Pixels has a wonderful nostalgia influenced concept but it is, sadly, as we all predicted suffocated in quality due to the unfortunate presence of Adam Sandler and company. That does not mean I completely hated Pixels though. It’s true that it is insincere with its affection for video games and general nerd culture, but that doesn’t stop the movie from having its fair share of creativity and entertaining moments.
Let’s just get the obvious negatives out of the way first; Adam Sandler is here and is playing another man-child, insulting people for no reason, and gets to win over another attractive lady (this time a grieving mother going through a divorce played by Michelle Monaghan). Naturally, friends of Adam Sandler are here for the ride whether it be in cameos or Kevin James portraying the president of the United States of America. Josh Gad is also here as the conspiracy theorist nutjob who is also madly in love with a fictional video game character; he’s basically the stereotypical nerd loser. Finally, Peter Dinklage tries his hand at comedy portraying a convict that is really good at 80s arcade games.
As you can see the cast is strange one; Pixels spends far too much time with these characters that don’t really have an identity and not enough time waging intergalactic warfare. With the exception of Peter Dinklage (who admittedly is pretty funny playing a chauvinistic criminal) everyone is simply playing the same characters they are typically casted as. As a result, the tone swings more on the side of juvenile Adam Sandler comedy than a Ghostbusters inspired action comedy about saving Earth from invading beloved video game characters.
The movie takes forever (I would estimate a good 45 minutes) before it actually reaches its first real action sequence, and by then I was honestly ready to tap out. However, once that Centipede themed battle begins, Adam Sandler and friends be damned, Pixels becomes fun summer entertainment and you begin to see the serious potential this movie had if not for a bloated script that spends far too much time watching bland characters crack unfunny jokes. It wasn’t funny the first time a character randomly told a female offscreen to shut up, so why would it be for the third time? The movie isn’t necessarily sexist considering Michelle Monaghan helps out during the final battle, but someone should have realized that some of the humor here is just immature and should have been cut.
It doesn’t help that most of the comedy comes from poking fun at nerd stereotypes, painting these people in a not so positive light. We don’t really need Josh Gad’s character in the movie, but the writers are stuck under the impression that he is the personality of a gamer. There is also nowhere near the amount of genuine love and knowledge of the video game industry on display in Pixels as there is in a movie like Wreck-It Ralph.
Again though, each and every one of the action sequences delivers alongside the nifty special effects for the pixelated enemies. Even better is that they show respect and an understanding of the mechanics of each game represented; Pac-Man can swallow up Power Pellets to gain a 10 second upperhand on our heroes, seeking out patterns of enemy formations and attacks becomes paramount to survival, and there’s a barrel smashing action galore in the real world re-created Donkey Kong sequence.
There is also a scene where Q-bert is watching a child play The Last of Us, seemingly terrified out of his mind while Adam Sandler quips “is this the most violent game you have ever seen”. Of course, the writers then ruin that goodwill built up by having him piss blocks during the final showdown.
Awkward casting and horrible pacing pretty much flush Pixels down the toilet, but hey, there’s a groovy soundtrack full of 80s rock and imaginative, very vibrant and colorful action. A good idea was botched to hell but the movie isn’t total garbage. By the standards of Adam Sandler this is actually his best leading role since Funny People.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook