By Nico Beland
Movie Review: C (2 ½ stars)
So it has come to this, the first review of an Adam Sandler movie on this blog, ever since Adam Sandler and Happy Madison Productions released films like Jack & Jill and That’s My Boy, I took a very long break from his movies, with the exception of Hotel Transylvania, which was pretty good. But aside from that I haven’t seen any Sandler or Happy Madison movie in theaters ever since That’s My Boy, I didn’t see Grown Ups 2, I didn’t see Blended, and I sure as hell didn’t see Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, but I digress, the same can be said by most of the live action movies based on video games that Hollywood keeps making, however I did see the Need for Speed movie, I’ll leave it at that.
But once I saw the trailer for Adam Sandler’s video game disaster movie, Pixels, directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), I decided to come out of “Sandler Retirement” and take a look at this movie, after all I love video games, classic, current, and so on, and after seeing movies like Tron: Legacy and Wreck-It Ralph, I don’t see how I could miss this, no matter how many mixed thoughts I might have about the finished product.
And it’s…okay, not good like 50 First Dates or Hotel Transylvania, but not terrible like Jack & Jill or That’s My Boy, the idea of Pixels is brilliant though, apparently the movie is based on a short film which I’m very curious to watch, and it’s pretty much a monster movie but replace all the monsters with iconic video game characters like Pac-Man, Centipede, and Donkey Kong, honestly it’s eerily similar to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man climax from Ghostbusters or a Men in Black scenario, and the entire movie reminded me of films like Jumanji, Zathura, and the upcoming Goosebumps movie.
In 1982 NASA launched a time capsule into space in hopes of contacting with extra-terrestrial life (Don’t worry there’s no 8-Bit E.T. in this movie!). The time capsule contained images of Earth’s life and culture, such as rubix cubes, popular TV shows, and of course classic arcade games such as Pac-Man, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Defender, and others.
The capsule did in fact reach extra-terrestrial life, but the message was mistaken as an act of war. So an unknown alien race sent down real life video games to destroy the planet.
From Pong paddles destroying a palace, Centipede eating people alive, and Donkey Kong throwing barrels, to Tetris blocks destroying buildings, and Pac-Man eating everything in its path to name a few. When all else fails the American government calls upon not the Ghostbusters or the Men in Black, but instead old school gamers from the 80s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler-Happy Gilmore, 50 First Dates, Hotel Transylvania), former champion of Pac-Man who now works as a TV repairman, US president and Sam’s childhood friend, President Will Cooper (Kevin James-The King of Queens, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Here Comes the Boom), theory obsessed and socially awkward genius, Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad-Frozen, The Wedding Ringer), master of Centipede, and Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage-The Station Agent, Game of Thrones, X-Men: Days of Future Past), king of Donkey Kong are recruited by Lt. Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan-The Bourne Supremacy, Mission: Impossible III, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol) to use their game playing knowledge, high tech weaponry, and of course, “Ghosts” to save the world from 8 bit warfare, Contra style with extra Doom and a Donkey Kong.
Overall, Pixels is quite an ambitious project, for better or for worse, like I said the idea of the movie is awesome, classic video games come down and destroy the real world, I’m surprised we never had a movie like that, although we did have a Futurama episode with that sort of premise and also the original short the movie was based on, Adam Sandler and Kevin James are passable for this movie, nothing spectacular but they’re not as annoying in this as they are in some of their other recent films, Josh Gad is hit or miss, sometimes he’s funny, but he can be very annoying other times, basically he’s the complete opposite of his Olaf character from Frozen, Peter Dinklage is awesome, enough said, he’s the actor who makes the movie, personally I probably would have liked it more if it was just Dinklage and Q*Bert (Who apparently learns how to speak English, probably from hanging out with Wreck-It Ralph and Fix-It Felix Jr. a lot) battling the video games, because he’s the character who’s thoroughly funny from beginning to end, he’s like an adorable Billy Mitchell.
And of course, the chaotic video game scenes are a ton of fun to watch and laugh at the absurdity, very much like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters and probably some moments from Men in Black. The movie is worth watching for Dinklage and the video game scenes, everything else you can just fast-forward.
What does bring the film down is the Happy Madison humor, there’s a lot of weird and sometimes lazy jokes in the movie that aren’t very funny, if you’re gonna laugh at anything in the movie, it’s the video game scenes and Dinklage and probably the scene where Pac-Man creator, Toru Iwatani gets his hand eaten by Pac-Man, and a small peeve I have with this movie is the fact that they PG-13’d it, this could have passed as a PG kids movie because I can’t see any teenagers or adults watch this and be as invested as children.
But if you do have kids who are ten years old and love video games, they’ll probably get a kick out of it, the effects are pixelated fun, the action is decent, the cast, while rough when it comes to comedy for the most part is fine, and the 3D is a lot of fun. For me personally, if you want a really smart and really funny movie about video games, streaming Wreck-It Ralph would be a better option, well at least I can say Pixels is better than The Wizard and most live action movies based on video games.