You know when you begrudgingly go somewhere like the dentist or Costco on the weekend and you get through it and then you get home and you’re like, damn, I made it? That’s pretty much what seeing Pixels is like. It’s not offensively bad and you can sit through it, but you feel like you would rather be elsewhere or in that same seat but watching a better movie.
The premise is awesome and that’s what makes this film frustrating. Unlike many of Sandler’s recent projects, Pixels manages to be not only bad but a disappointment, because it could have been so freaking cool. Sandler plays Sam Brenner, a former video game prodigy with his best days behind him and Kevin James plays his friend Cooper, who is the president of the United States. Add Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) to the mix and you’ve got yourself the self-proclaimed “Arcaders”. They are exactly like Ghostbusters but also nothing like the Ghostbusters. Oh, and Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) is there too because Adam Sandler needs a love interest.
In Pixels, aliens mistake a video feed of 80s video games as a declaration of war and it is up to a group of gamers to save the world from destruction. The Arcaders battle Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede and other classic characters for planet Earth. That sounds exciting, and should be, but everyone looks bored here, somehow.
Christopher Columbus is best known for Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and two Harry Potter films (the ones with the true Dumbledore) and it’s a real mystery how he was led to this project. The film has a big budget and some of the scenes put it to good use, but overall, it felt like the actors and the filmmakers were on very different pages.
Pixels certainly isn’t Sandler and co.’s most sexist film, but there is some cringe-worthy humour here and the guys are essentially awarded with women at the end for their good deeds. Ludlow is literally rewarded with a woman, who given to him as an actual trophy for saving the earth. Also, Jane Krakowski is in this film and inexplicably given maybe three lines.
Reviewing a Sandler film has become difficult because he finds new ways to surprise us with poor quality and because his films typically fall into different types of bad. On a scale ranging from crime against humanity (Jack and Jill) to bad (Bedtime Stories), this falls somewhere in the middle. Imagine the cast of Grown Ups leaving the cottage and shooting stuff with lasers and you’ve pretty much got it. As always, hopefully Adam Sandler works through the latest glitch in his career and puts some effort into his next project.