IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 105 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In the summer of 1982, Sam Brenner and Will Cooper are thirteen year olds who love playing in the local arcade. Sam enters an arcade game world championship. At the event, the MC says that a time capsule will be launched into space containing elements of the championships. Sam and Will meet Ludlow Lamonsoff, another child who’s in love with Lady Lisa. the main character of the game Dojo Quest. Sam wins nearly every game, but loses to at Donkey Kong. In the present, Sam works for a company that installs home cinema systems and Will is the President of the United States. In Guam, a U.S. military base is attacked in a manner just like in the game Galaga. It seems that aliens who found the time capsule saw it as a threat and are sending creatures with classic video game designs to attack….
Well the idea has a certain charm, especially if you’re of a certain age where much of your time as a kid was spent in amusement arcades. Unfortunately, they decided to give it to Adam Sandler and barely have the writer/director of the original short which inspired the film involved at all. Now, unlike it seems many who are bashing the movie, I actually remember a time when Sandler, and his movies, used to be funny. Unfortunately, the movies are going downhill, Sandler is too old for his Man Child schtick and he’s looking increasingly bored with it all. Add some of his talentless, so-called ‘comedian’ buddies and Pixels is just destined to not be very good and mostly a waste of a decent, if hard to get totally right, premise. I say mostly, because when Earth is being attacked by characters like Pac-Man and Centipede, and our annoying heroes are desperately trying to save the day, the movie is pretty exciting and a visual treat, the bright colours often dazzling the eye and the special effects totally spot on. There are nice touches elsewhere too, such as the aliens using old pop culture figures, from Ronald Reagan to Max Headroom to communicate their evil intentions to Earthlings. The scene near the end of as many old time game characters as possible running rampage is one of the most entertaining spectacles I’ve seen in a while.
However, otherwise the film falls very flat. What with Sandler seeming asleep, Kevin James mostly lacking much of a discernable personality [I mean how, just how, is this guy a star?] as per usual,, and Josh Gad’s bursts of mania just being hugely irritating, it’s hard to want our heroes to actually win. At least Peter Dinklage is quite amusing, but with very few of the supposed jokes [which as usual mostly involve insults] hitting home, the humans are overshadowed by Pac-Man’s Q-Bert, a small pixellated character who appears as a trophy for the humans and does provide some chuckles. Meanwhile we also have to suffer through an unconvincing, even painful romance, and the result is a film that is only good in parts and to be honest not really worth sitting through the whole thing to see those good bits. It’s possible that some heavy editing would greatly improve Pixels, though the direction they decided to take the material in was ill-advised from the start. It’s not to see it as a great big vanity project for Sandler whose character is described as a genius throughout – in fact the whole thing is rather sexist and I’m not a person normally bothered by that kind of thing. A mixed bag, but with a bit more bad than good.