By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
My fondness for some of Adam Sandler’s earlier movies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer) and my love for classic video games fueled whatever hope I had going into this film. As I left the theater though, I felt overstimulated from the CGI clutter and a bit annoyed. While I didn’t totally despise this film, I felt like saying, “Is that all?” When I thought this, I was referring to the “story” and characters and not the sometimes impressive, but often excessive visuals. Pixels does have some genuinely funny moments, but not enough of these or any solid storytelling to really hold my interest, should I have a lapse in judgement and decide to watch this movie again. I’m thinking it would be best for my readers to avoid it at the theater altogether.
During the 1980s, NASA decides to send a time capsule to space, in hopes of communicating with extraterrestrial life. Well, the capsule, which feature footage of pop culture, including video games, does reach an alien race. However, this advanced civilization interprets the games as a violent threat and responds by sending live versions of these games and their characters to destroy the earth. Desperate to counter this threat, President Cooper (Kevin James) enlists the help of his old friends and video game champions Sam Brenner (Sandler), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) to face the challenge.
Based on the short film of the same name by Patrick Jean, writers Tim Herlihy, Timothy Dowling, and director Chris Columbus have made a not-so-great movie that probably has the potential of being made into a funny video game compilation/cross-over. The film does start off with a mix of hilarious and so-so humor, but some of the gags and characters grow tiresome after a while. Columbus and his technical crew do offer some stunning visual effects, but after the first two battle sequences the subsequent ones also grow tiresome and increasingly difficult to watch. By the time I reached the main climactic battle, I was done. I wanted the movie to end as soon as possible.
I left feeling like I was forced to play a chaotic and cluttered video game that wasn’t exactly all that fun for way too long. It was sensory overload. It was almost like being forced to stare at clusters of CGI images for a long time because the filmmakers didn’t really have any more story to tell. I do have to admit that the first two game sequences involving Centipede and Pac-Man were fun, even though they filmmakers pretty much got the entire premise behind the latter game all wrong. The movie simply becomes repetitive and irritating after that.
I even liked the characters a little. They weren’t all that annoying, though Ludlow Lamonsoff’s characteristic’s got on my nerves after awhile. Still, Adam Sandler stars as Adam Sandler, Kevin James stars as Kevin James (if he were president). Gad and Dinklage really are the only main characters who give it their all. The charm of their characters wear thin due to repetition, but I appreciate that they at least attempt to create characters other than their real selves. With the exceptions of Sean Bean and Brian Cox, who stand out among the supporting cast members, everyone else phones it in.
With heavy reliance on the nostalgic charm of the video games and the pop culture of the 1980s, the filmmakers may as well have phoned in, forgotten about making a movie and handed their ideas to a video game company for development. I really do love the idea of combining these fun games of my childhood, but not in the way that it’s mishandled here. It’s definitely not on like Donkey Kong.