The thought of an Adam Sandler movie in which he battles video game characters from the 80s didn’t exactly set my heart spinning. But that is exactly what we have in Pixels, and when I say it is at least better than 99% of his recent dreary comedies of the past decade (Jack And Jill, That’s My Boy, Grown Ups 1 and 2, The Cobbler, Blended, etc etc) or so, it may be minor praise but what do you want from an obvious kids’ summer time-waster like this? If I were 10 years old and into video games I would probably love this retro look at the early classic stars of the arcade games despite the dumb plot screenwriters Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling have created here. Actually it is based on Patrick Jean’s short film, and considering the lackluster pacing of the film’s first half it might have been left better in truncated form. But as I say in my video review (click the link above) the sight of seeing Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga and Space Invaders among others turned into ultimate screen villains is actually kind of stupid summer fun and worth trudging through the rest of the film to see. And Sandler, for once, underplays it and doesn’t get in the way too much.
The basic plot has aliens from another planet mistaking early feeds of 80s arcade video games as Earth’s declaration of war so they turn the tables and send those iconic characters down to earth to wreak havoc on humanity. What to do? The President of the United States, Kevin James, brings in his childhood buddies Sandler and Josh Gad along with Peter Dinklage, the guy who was their nemesis in dominating the action in video arcade contests when they were kids. Sandler was the brains of the bunch, but the Dinklage character cheated a lot and it worked. Now instead of just pretending, these guys — all grown up but still with the mind of juveniles — are out to save the world for real, this time against these dreaded video game legends.
Chris Columbus, a writer and director of some of the most iconic family films of the 80s and 90s, in addition to a couple of Harry Potters, certainly knows his way around this kind of movie and doesn’t stint on the production values. The special effects are first-rate and lots of fun to watch. That’s about it. The cast, which also includes the always watchable Michelle Monaghan as a Lt. Colonel that Sandler is at odds with, is fine with the fairly lame script. Game Of Thrones star Dinklage comes off best, getting maximum comic mileage out of this so I assume he made up most of his dialogue. I also liked the lovable video star Q*bert who is also along for this ride, but on the side of the good guys. There’s also lots of pop culture references from the 80s along with personalities of the era like Hall And Oates that will likely mean nothing to the target audience, but adults dragged by their kids might crack a smile. Sandler, Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Allen Covert and Mark Radcliffe are producers. Sony Pictures releases the film on Friday.
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