If you like Adam Sandler's brand of comedy and you remember the old video games you're in for a treat with this movie. If you don't like Adam Sandler or movies like Grown Ups 2, or maybe Zookeeper, then stay away from this. I am a fandler and have no problems with admitting it; but I didn't like this movie for Adam Sandler, though he is fun in it, but rather the enjoyment of seeing what basically equated to a grown up and admittedly less enjoyable Wreck It Ralph. The cast includes Adam Sandler, Kevin James , Josh Gad, MIchelle Monaghan and the odd one out Peter Dinklage; which I have to assume is one of the weirdest roles he's played in other than Frank, the gay lover of the deceased father from Death at a Funeral.
I wholly expected this to be a kid's movie mainly because of what little I had seen of the movie but this is definitely not a movie you'd want to take kids to see. Not just because of the grown up language and low brow comedy, but rather because this isn't really for anyone who didn't grow up playing Atari, Nintendo or atleast a Super Nintendo. Everything from the music, to the pop culture references in this screams 80s. The soundtrack is enjoyable despite the fact that it could use a little more color; a little Marvin Gaye or Earth, Wind and Fire during the romance scenes. I'd even settle for a passing reference to Michael Jackson, maybe some random person doing the thriller dance off beat for a joke.
No such luck though, instead we did get to enjoy some rap song in the end credits which is odd considering a long line of great music from the 70s and 80s but they'd rather choose to go with brand new rap music. Waka Flocka Flame has never really been my cup of tea anyway. There was Sandler's attempt at a moonwalk which may be considered a passing reference to Michael Jackson but I'm not completely sure that's what he was doing. We did get some great songs from people like Queen, Hall and Oates, and Loverboy though.
Pixels is about a man who goes by the name Brenner (Sandler); he had an incredible mind for reading patterns in 8 bit video games and predicting where the characters will go. His friend Chewy/Cooper (Kevin James), who got his nicname from the Chewbacca mask he won in a crane game, suggests that he join a videogame tournament to prove his most excellent skills. He does join, where he meets Ludlow (Gad) the wonderkid who lives with his grandma and has paranoid conspiracy theories that seem way far off but really who can know for sure. He also meets and competes against Eddie (Dinklage) a douchy guy with a huge ego. Not much more to say about him.
The tournament is the last important thing that Brenner does for a long while, which is interesting compared to his best friend Cooper who becomes THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! That is not a joke, he is the president. As you can imagine, in Sandler's later years style of being perpetually mellow with minor spouts of rage or cartoonish comedy, he takes this in stride as he spends his time as a Nerd hooking up people's equipment in their homes, sort of like a less fun or believable Chuck Bartowski.
Brenner is one of those people who took the path of least resistence in life because it was the only way to ensure he didn't fail. Which he still managed to do anyway. An alien scourge would then come to challenege Earth after they recieved what was thought to be a challenge video. Armed with interesting pixel technology and the ability to make videos that look like they're from the 80s with people who look like they're from the 80s they would challenege Earth to battle where either side had three lives. Suddenly the slacker was reunited with his friends, and a hot scientist woman Violet (Monaghan) to put his pointless video game skills to good use. Now that's not to say that all skills learned from video games are useless, just only knowing how to play videogames are useless; if you can't apply those skills anywhere else they're pointless in the real world.
While I enjoyed this movie there are a number of problems with it. For one, there is a joke about how Violet won't give Brenner the time of day because he has a crappy job to which his reply is that she is "snobby". Not to go on a rant here but even though I've been turned down many a time for having a suckish job I would never consider someone snobby for having certain standards for whom they choose to build a life with. Especially since he admitted to living in a studio apartment, not brushing his teeth and Violet is in the middle of a divorce. It's kind of rude to think it's ok to insult a woman just because she won't give you the time of day and the same vice versa. No double standards here.
Violet wasn't a very empowering female character either to which she was one of the only. She spent most of the time reminding people that she had a kid and being kind of snobby by looking down on Brenner's character. Now I didn't say she wasn't a snob just that she's not a snob for not wanting to be with Brenner at the time. She was less of a character and more of the butt of a joke and a love interest to be obtained by our hero. Still she was leaps and bounds ahead of the other female characters one being the president's wife whose personality you barely see, greatly underusing the fabulous actress Jane Krakowski and the beautiful Ashley Benson whose main job is to stand there and look pretty. Boy did she though.
The other problem was the only character not believable in their roles is our main hero. Now why is that? Is it because he isn't in the life he's supposed to be because right now his situation is crappy? No. It's because Adam Sandler is about as believable as a tech nerd as I am as a male model. Don't laugh I could be a model, I have some nice features. My hands are awesome. It's not that I don't find Adam Sandler intelligent, far from it actually. He just doesn't buy it as a nerd. He has always been more of the sarcastic douchy jock with a conscious like he was in Eight Crazy Nights. He did Little Nicky and Waterboy which is a bit of a stretch from his usual personage and he played fairly well in good movies like Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and Funny People so it's not like he doesn't have the possible acting chops but he doesn't really seem to want to apply them all that much. Maybe I'm mistaken and the more subdued nerd is the reality. If anything though he seemed more like a hipster to me, but not like a real hipster, more like the hipster insult; or what someone who doesn't know what a hipster is says is a hipster, like me. Still I have to say I really liked Kevin James as the president. I don't know why but it felt completely natural.
Despite those glaring problems there was still a good amount of charm in this movie. Between the fun to watch action scenes, and the legitimately funny jokes that came. The interesting thing to note is that despite the few lines he was given one of the ones to really shine was 14 year old Matt Lintz as Matty. I found him to be a refreshing addition to the movie giving it a much needed reminder of it's childlike premise despite the maturity he exudes. Another fun thing to mention is despite not having any interaction two cast members of Game of Thrones is in this: Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage. Josh Gad was silly and a bit of a stretch from past roles playing a slightly more quirky, weird, and kind of religious in an odd way, character than I'm used to seeing him as.
This review may sound like I'm beating up on this movie but this was actually a movie I enjoyed. It was fun and I had quite a few good laughs. It had an interesting premise which it handled to the best of it's ability but admittedly it could have executed it better. I don't understand the harshness against this movie, there were plenty of scenes that were enjoyable for any sense of humor. Maybe people are finally fed up with movies playing into the nostalgia. Maybe if Pixels was released in 2008 or 2009 it might have faired better. The better explanation is people either don't like Sandler and anything to do with him or that they would have prefered this premise in a better executed movie. Still I can't give more detail about what I enjoyed without spoiling the few laughs the movie holds, so I'm left with a review that sounds more like a character assassination than a semi-positive review with constructive criticisms. I can say though that I will always be impressed with the way they can completely create a person using computer graphics. People didn't seem to respond well to young Arnold in Terminator at first but the ones used in Pixels seemed very well executed. If I didn't know President Reagan had passed I would have thought they got him for the movie.
Honestly though, even though I enjoyed it I probably wouldn't suggest anyone go to the movies to see it unless you have a really low price matinee. I would suggest buying or renting the DVD/Blu-Ray and making a game out of seeing how many video game references you can get. This movie is fun but not 11 dollars for one showing fun. For real though, when did movies get so expensive? It used to be like 7 dollars for a ticket and 40 dollars for the popcorn sodas and maybe a candy now it's a hundred dollars for the same thing.