Director: Chris Columbus (Night at the Museum, Fantastic Four).
Cast: Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Big Daddy), Kevin James (The King of Queens, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Michelle Monaghan (Eagle Eye, Source Code), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones, X-Men: Days of Future Past), Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer, Frozen).
“An Adam Sandler film” I hear you groan. Some of you will see Sandler as a beacon of laughs and comedy, others will happily jump off the nearest cliff to avoid watching his films.
At least it’s not The Ridiculous Six (2015).
Pixels lands roughly in the middle of the Sandler spectrum. It’s not as singularly focused as Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison, but it’s not a Grown Ups affair either. Sandler plays Sam Brenner, an installer of home-theatre systems, and his best friend Will Cooper (Kevin James) is the President of the United States. Years earlier, a cassette was sent into space containing footage of the video game world championships, but aliens have found the footage, interpreting it as a declaration of war from Earth, and have sent classic video games back to destroy the earth.
At least it’s not Jack and Jill (2011).
Brenner looks to redeem himself from his defeat at the world championships years ago, by helping train Navy SEALs to fight against the alien threats. The Earth and the aliens have three lives each, and whoever runs of out lives first loses. The prize? The fate of the Earth! But, we soon learn that hundreds of SEALs can’t aim a gun and nor do any of them have good hand-eye coordination. So it’s up to Brenner to save the world, aided by Cooper, Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage), Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad).
At least it’s not Just Go With It (2011).
Director Christopher Columbus and Adam Sandler are a beautiful match of mediocrity. Ultimately Pixels is just a bunch of concepts thrown at the wall and seeing what sticks. CGI-fest is an apt description, but to the film’s credit, it looks great. Recreations of classic video game icons like Donkey Kong, Frogger and Q*bert all fit the ‘voxel’ feel that Columbus has brought along in this alien army. This style works much better than any attempt to ‘ground’ or make the characters realistic. Columbus has previous experience with filming CGI and actors seamlessly from the first two Harry Potter films and it shows. Because of this, Pixels is elevated from the Sandler-tier of film to barely average-tier.
At least it’s not I Know Pronounce You Chuck And Larry (2007).
No one’s winning any Oscars here, though I don’t think anyone on set expected to do so. Sandler’s the same character he’s been playing for the past 20 years, Kevin James stretches himself out of the Paul Blart character but only takes two steps before finding something just as comfy. Peter Dinklage plays a Peter Dinklage character; someone whose ego is twice as big as their height. Michelle Monaghan is the only tolerable actor in the film, although standing out between this cast isn’t a hard feat whatsoever.
At least it’s not Bulletproof (1996).
I think as a kid’s film, there’s some enjoyment to Pixels. It’s one of the better films to fall out of Sandler’s Happy Madison production company, but that’s like saying being shot in the leg is better than being shot in the face. Sandler draws audiences, his movies are profitable and is would be disingenuous of me to say that no-one will enjoy the film. Its action and set pieces are aesthetically fun to watch, there’s an attractive female love interest, a hot-blonde, and Sandler does his trademark high-pitch mocking voice. Checklist complete. If you know what you’re getting from an Adam Sandler film, you probably won’t be disappointed in what you see. But anyone looking for an effective use of video game properties or interesting plot, stay clear.
At least it’s not Going Overboard (1989).
Feature image credit: Columbia Pictures