So get this guys, there’s this movie called Pixels. Adam Sandler teams up with fucking Q*Bert to fight against an alien invasion taking the form of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. It’s got 80’s retro references and a 110 million dollar budget. And it’s directed by the guy who did the original Home Alone (Chris Columbus)!
HOLY CRAP DOT COM
That’s what you call a recipe for the greatest awful movie ever made.
Set your expectations straight
Let’s make this perfectly clear: Pixels does not make sense. First and foremost, it’s a hangout movie. Adam Sandler does not hide the fact that he often uses his films as an excuse to hang out with his buddies. His film studio Happy Gilmore Productions was created just so his friends would have steady work. Scripts get rewritten to give the crew an excuse to go on resort vacations. Along with Sandler and Q*Bert, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan, and Peter Dinklage are all in this fight together. A capsule was sent into space back in the 80’s containing footage from a video game tournament which freaked the hell out of some aliens. Now they’re striking back with classic gaming characters.
What does familiarity with 1981’s Centipede have to do with shooting actual pixelated monsters that appear in the sky? How does their skill with Pac-Man translate to Fast & Furious-style driving in order to run down a gigantic demonic Pac-Man? Does any of that make sense? Hell no.
This is an Adam Sandler movie. Would you prefer:
- On a global scale, Earth is at war. Attempts at an amicable and peaceful resolution are breaking down. Meanwhile, Adam Sandler is going through a midlife crisis. As a child, he excelled at video games. With the classic games, he could recognize patterns and always count on his ability of analysis to get him ahead. However, this approach to life did not work as he became an adult. Try as he might, life cannot be cold-calculated based on patterns. His friends have blown by him, solidifying their careers and getting married, while he’s still stuck in a rut because he’s afraid of embracing life and living up to his full potential.
- A comedy movie where Adam Sandler hangs out with his buddies for thinly veiled reasons. They all rip on each other, go through crazy-ass situations, and never get too serious. The aliens, world-ending scenarios, and video games are just an excuse to give them more fodder to joke on and make fun of. You watch the movie not because you’re expecting a great story but because you’ve seen these guys act before and you love watching how they interact. In the back of your mind, you’re waiting to see just how politically incorrect they’re going to get.
Most people who claim to be interested in film wouldn’t admit to the second. Hell, I’d even prefer the first. I love a good sound movie that tells an epic story with a great coming-of-age tale in the mix. I loved 2014’s Interstellar. However, I also get the appeal of the second.
Don’t pretend that you don’t either. Don’t pretend that you don’t seek it out sometimes.
Shall we go down the list? Do you like Jim Carrey movies? Family Guy? South Park? Do you like podcasts that aren’t deep academic analysis? Do you like Marvel movies? Do you like YouTube videos where someone’s just hanging out and playing video games? Do you like hanging out with your friends as they sit around and tell offensive stories that you would never admit to on Twitter?
You know you get it.
Do you like hanging with Adam Sandler?
Adam Sandler has nailed down cocky-funny. He’s the embodiment. Every once and a while he starts a high-pitched squeal that contains words he shouldn’t be using in public. He embraces social awkwardness by overstating his point and becoming longwinded. When he’s talking to a woman, he’ll dip into a childish silly voice to mask his feelings, completely transparent to the audience.
It ain’t no different in this movie.
The rest of the crew is bringing their schtick and they do well.
Adam Sandler sadly feels restrained. The movie feels like a PG movie that got shoved into the PG-13 category due to five cuss words and the MPAA had a stick up their ass. Sandler brings his B-game and you can tell he wasn’t interested in this role. B-game Sandler isn’t outright bad, but you can see actors like Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage stealing the show.
Written by but not acted by gamers
Someone obviously within the chain of command loved video games. The high scores these characters have are based on actual world record high scores. References to ky culturally important video games manage to find their way into the script. But, Adam Sandler and the guys? I’m sure the entire lot of them know what Pac-Man is, but I’m also sure they never spent countless nights trying to learn them. Sander feels more at home attempting to game the ladies while one of the best scenes with Josh Gad involves him equating a bunch of military men to the cast of Magic Mike. Not video game related, though not bad.
The cast does their best to attempt to know what they’re talking about. After all, that’s what actors do. But the end result reminds me more of Chris Hemsworth trying to convince an audience he’s a genius computer hacker (see Blackhat) rather than the big and beautiful Thor that he is.
The End Result
Adam Sander has presence. Whether you care depends on whether you grew up with his movies. The hanging around scenes with the crew are the best. The best parts are the parts not related to video games. The action is flashy enough to be entertaining despite none of it making any sense. The video game jokes and 80’s pop-culture cleverness is superficial and try-hard, except for some moments. Mr. Iwatani, Pac-Man creator, facing his gigantic creation, was a laugh-riot.
I was entertained by this movie but I’m fine with never seeing it again. Obviously, no one cared about logic within the movie. In a proper review, I’d give it a “C”. The 5,000 calories worth of popcorn I had made the trip worth it.
Not a life changer.
Better than Trainwreck.