Synopsis: As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they’re going to have to do it for real. In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults — and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.
Release Date: July 24, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Over the past two plus decades Adam Sandler has built a small empire on the back of goofy comedies made with his closest buddies. The films feature self-contained stories and outlandish characters, and while some moviegoers eat up every Sandler release with reckless abandon others find them repulsive. Sandler’s latest film, Pixels, falls into neither camp, but instead exists as something a little better and a little worse, depending on how you look at it.
On the one hand, Pixels use of video game characters is incredibly unique and the look of each 8-bit icon pops with the right level of color and detail. Truly, Pixels has found a way to recreate pixelated characters in 3D space, and its visual effects team deserves special commendation. However, with a budget as big as Pixels‘ and visuals as professional, there was clearly a need to reign in Adam Sandler, and keep his usual comedic antics to a minimum. It’s actually quite surprising how un-Sandler the film is, both in his performance and in the film’s humor. Unfortunately, what humor and character work Pixels does have is not particularly memorable or funny. It’s actually pretty dull.
Speaking of the characters, Pixels tracks all over the place in terms of comedic archetypes. Sandler plays his usual everyman schlub, Kevin James plays the President as an affable nitwit, Michelle Monaghan exists solely to be the love interest, and Josh Gad goes all in as the psychologically unbalanced wild card. Oh, and there’s Peter Dinklage doing his best to channel the ’80s while proving he’s capable of acting circles around most of the cast. His character is completely absurd, but somehow it works in Pixels. As a matter of fact, he’s probably the best part of the movie, save for the effects.
To come away from an Adam Sandler movie with anything less than contempt is saying something, and yet Pixels delivers such a feeling. It has some creative flashes in the way it brings video game concepts to life and some of the characters are mindlessly entertaining. Nothing about the film is particularly memorable or exciting, mind you, but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete wash either. Pixels is an uninspiring family blockbuster that is worth recommending only if you have nostalgia for classic video games and can tolerate generic humor.
If there’s one thing to be said of Pixels that doesn’t come with a caveat it’s that the visual effects in the film are truly impressive. The method in which classic 8-bit games are not just brought to life but used as the platform for some cool action sequences is enough to make you smile. Granted, you’re still watching some lackluster characters participate in those action scenes, but from a purely visual perspective, Pixels has a lush art style. Kids in particular will love what director Chris Columbus has done with the likes of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, while adults will likely have smirks on their faces during the more fast-paced moments. That’s not enough to call Pixels a fun ride, but at the very least it has some clever design elements.
At best, Pixels is worth a few giggles but its biggest crime is that the film doesn’t lean hard enough into the Sandler brand of comedy. It’s neither overwrought with Sandler’s Happy Madison production company’s stable of actors available for cameos nor does it feature a ton of childish voices or Kevin James pratfalls, which will be reassuring to some and disappointing to others. So, for those comedy fans that have soured on Sandler some time ago, Pixels is more tolerable than it is funny. And for people who flock to every Adam Sandler film on day one, expect something much flatter in tone and comedic sensibility.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Chris Columbus
- Screenwriter(s): Tim HerlihyTimothy Dowling
- Cast: Adam Sandler (Brenner)Kevin James (Cooper)Michelle Monaghan (Violet) Peter Dinklage (Eddie)Josh Gad (Ludlow)
- Editor(s): Peck Prior
- Cinematographer: Amir Mokri
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Henry Jackman
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA