Game over for Adam Sandler.
January 6th 2002, an episode of Futurama aired called Anthology Of Interest II in which Fry fights off video game characters as they attempt to invade and conquer the earth. In 2015, Pixels is released in cinemas and tells the story of video game characters attempting to invade and conquer the earth. I’m not suggesting that Pixels is gross plagiarism, but it is lazy repetition and a failure to capitalise on an existing concept at least.
Pixels sees Adam Sandler team up with frequent collaborator Kevin James and established director Christopher Columbus (Gremlins, Home Alone, Harry Potter) to deliver a film devoid of interest, humour and purpose. The premise is simple, aliens have misinterpreted footage of 80’s arcade games as a declaration of war and now the 1982 world arcade champion must be employed by the US president (luckily they are friends) to stop the alien attack. Throw in a cunning Peter Dinklage with a horrid accent, a conspiracy theory weirdo stereotype Josh Gad and a recent divorcee (Michelle Monaghan) with a child for Sandler to prey on and you basically know everything you need to tell me the entire story before you enter the cinema.
Let’s get it out of the way incase you couldn’t figure out my opinion of this film yet, Pixels is sub par. Even when you have low expectations of a film, you expect the historical pedigree of Sandler to bring some laughs. I half smiled a few times and laughed exactly once (Josh Gad delivers some conspiracy theory at an inopportune time and it is amusing). The concept of the film seems to be a winning formula, the Futurama segment lasted less than 10 minutes but was packed with witty puns, gaming references and felt like an homage to classic gaming that could easily be expanded upon. Pixels feels like a one trick pony. The repetition of jokes about nerds, suggestions that the games are easy if you know patterns and a forced romance all help the film fit its paint by numbers formula.
The film is packed with so much convenience and illogical decisions i have to question if there was more than a first draft written to try and develop some characters or hide the easy connect the dots storytelling that happens within. The three people required to save the world are all at the same video game competition as children, the footage of which causes the invasion. One of them becomes the President and the other a tech repairman who happens to be at the house of a high ranking official as the invasion begins. Where are the creators of the games beside a flat cameo from the inventor of Pacman. Where are the world champions from 1981 and 1983 arcade tournaments. Why do they fly US special ops to London? Was there more than a carcass for this plot before they started filming and just back filled the rest?
It would be interesting to know what age group the film was written for. It features actors that appeal to a generation now in their late 20’s if not older, the games are from a generation now into their 30’s and yet the humour and rating aims at children. The film even makes a point of having the youngest character reference Halo and Call Of Duty being classic games. With the success of R rated comedy in multiple genre crossover films this year like Trainwreck and Spy, I feel a more crass film that appealed to an older audience would be more appropriate. As it is, Pixels will likely fail to find an audience because it doesn’t know what it is and it shows throughout the film.
I want to find things to like about Pixels. The graphics throughout are passable, the interaction of the games with real life objects is on par. Josh Gad is likable once again but none of the characters are particularly likeable and i wouldn’t have cared to see any of them eaten or violently harmed in their fights against the video games. Younger audiences may get a cheap laugh if they are led to the cinema by the bright lights, but this is 100 minutes of cinema history likely to be forgotten and go down with Super Mario Brothers as another video game miss.
Pixels was disappointing even for the low expectations generated by recent Sandler, James and Colombus films. Dinklage was a potential bright light and is marginalised with an accent and poor casting. Pixels is a waste of a potentially interesting concept and I would advise anyone interested in it to wait until a rainy afternoon when they have exhausted every other option before wasting their time with it.