TL,DR – Is this the train wreck everyone said it would be, yes, this is an abomination of cinema, Do Not Waste Your Money On It.
Score – 0.5 out of 5 stars
There was a time a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away when I quite enjoyed Adam Sandler films. Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer are all classic films worthy of a re-watch. As time when on I just stopped liking them, but hey people grow up, tastes change, and you know Adam Sandler goes out of his way to keep his friends employed every year, so kudos to that. But as time goes on and it is just one terrible film after another, it has me wondering, is there ever going to be an Adam Sandler film that I like again?, is Pixels going to be that film?, No, no it’s not.
The basic premise of the film is that in the 1980s NASA sent a probe into space with footage of a video game tournament (that coincidentally all are main leads were at) and digital copies of the current crop of video games. This probe was intercepted by an alien race who interpreted these video games as a challenge, a declaration of war, so here they come to accept that challenge and mess Earth up. I mean it is not the most original plot (we send something out into space and it comes back to haunt us) but it’s serviceable if you have a good writing team behind you. This did not happen in Pixels.
Casting wise, Adam Sandler is playing Adam Sandler, I mean Sam Brenner a former Pac-Man world champion now TV installer, he’s not bad, but he’s not great. Kevin James (William Cooper) is Sam’s best friend and now President of the United States, I was going to make a wisecrack about the chances of him becoming president in real life, but since people elected Bush Jr. (well at least once) and currently at the time of writing Donald Trump is the leading candidate of the Republican Party maybe it is no so far-fetched. Michelle Monaghan is the sole female lead who spends a large portion of her dialogue talking about her ex-husband who cheated on her with younger women. Josh Gad is the creepy Ludlow Lamonsoff which they really needed to rethink his character, more on that later. Then there is a string of people that are just wasted potential in their bland/stereotype roles, Brian Cox, Jane Krakowski & Sean Bean just to name a few. Also like Dan Aykroyd is like there for a blink and you’d miss it cameo, which was quite weird until later in the movie when they shoehorn in his bad vodka as a product placement and it all makes sense.
When it comes to the humour look it’s nothing fresh, nerd jokes, military jokes, vidia game jokes. Now I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh during this film. I did laugh a couple of time and there was the odd smirk but in the end, I spent most of the film with a confused face wondering why they did that. Seriously there is a line in the film that goes “JFK Shot First” like I can’t begin to wonder what people were thinking when they let something like that make it all the way into the final released film. There are also really weird little things, like how one of the DARPA scientists is a robot for no discernible reason. There is one scene in the film that may have actually hit the right tone, which was the one with Toru Iwatani (Denis Akiyama) confronting his creation Pac-Man only to have it turn on him. Though of course you already knew this was in the film, because it was in every single trailer for the film.
Also, I have to point out some really unpleasant use of language and depictions of women in this film. While the language is really problematic and other than Michelle Monaghan the only other women in this film are window dressing which is also problematic, I mean you have Jane Krakowski in your film and you do nothing with her. However, the worse thing is this movie treats women as being prizes to be won. Firstly you have the case of Lady Lisa (Ashley Benson), Ludlow (Josh Gad) is shown throughout the film to have an ‘unhealthy’ relationship with the fictional character, so sure enough at the end when all the video game characters invade Washington DC, Ludlow comes face to face with Lisa. Firstly, they chose to break with the art style for every other video game character in the movie (and the literal title of the movie) because Lady Lisa is of course not pixels, but a real actress in skimpy attire. More problematically Ludlow is able to use the powers of his “love” to convince her to join their side for no discernible reason but worse still he literally ‘wins’ her at the end of the movie. As well as this, Serena Williams, who goes from being a running gag, to having a moment of empowerment only to end up once again as a trophy that Eddie (Peter Dinklage) wins at the end of the movie.
When it comes to the special effects, look they’re quite good for what they were going for, at least with regards to the pixel video game characters and this is probably the best bit of the film. Of course, after watching the short it is based on, they literally reused some of the ideas verbatim in the film. There was also this thing where the aliens (which we never properly see) used footage of people from the 80‘s to deliver their warnings of doom and while the first one is ok, the others are so badly done that the uncanny valley smacks you in the face.
Look in the end if you want to watch a good film about those arcade classics, watch Wreck-It Ralph which was created by people who care for these icons of gaming history and also know how to write an engaging script. Or if you don’t have that kind of time, watch the short video clip Pixels that “inspired” the film, it’s two minutes long, it’s on YouTube and you can go watch it.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Chris Columbus
Story by – Tim Herlihy
Screenplay by – Tim Herlihy & Timothy Dowling
Based on – Pixels by Patrick Jean
Starring – Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Jane Krakowski & Ashley Benson
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: PG; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13