Pixels – 3 out of 5
I suppose I could use this opening paragraph to talk about how crummy Adam Sandler films are. I’ve done it in the past with his other films, so why not do it here? I can go over and over again about how he’s just not as funny as he used to be or theorize that maybe society’s collective sense of humor has changed and he hasn’t evolved with it and, instead, remain stagnant and doing the same thing and that’s why he’s not funny anymore. I could also take the time to defend the man (which I occasionally do in my private life) because the guy is making the movies he wants to make and they make tons of dollars--not many creative types get that level of freedom. I could do that but, as you can tell from the score, I really didn’t think this Sandler film was that bad. In fact, I have to say that Pixels might be one of his better films he’s been a part of in some time.
|Few people can rock a mullet in this world but now you can add another name|
to that list...and that name is Dinklage.
In 1982, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) and Will Cooper (Kevin James) become enamored with their local arcade. Brenner proves to be so good at video games that he heads to a championship tournament where he competes against hotshot gamer Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) and a strange gamer named Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad). The tournament was filmed and put in a time capsule that was launched into space and little did they know was that aliens would intercept that time capsule and take it as a challenge from Earth. Decades later, they invade the planet and use the old arcade games as the form in which they attack. Cooper, now the President of the United States, turns to his bestie Brenner and Lamonsoff to rise to the challenge and save the day. The duo soon learns they are in over the head and have to turn to the arrogant hothead Plant for help. Together, they must now play in live-action versions of Centipede, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong or it’s Game Over.
|If they would have had Ms. Pac-Man the GamerGaters would have flipped.|
I won’t deny that part of the appeal of this film and a major reason I enjoyed this more than other recent Sandler films is the nostalgia factor. I’ve played video games my entire life and seeing big screen versions of Galaga, Arkanoid and Q-bert is neat on a level all by itself. Additionally, an absolutely great and hysterical performance from Josh Gad really helped the film move along and be entertaining. Peter Dinklage has his moments as the cocky Plant and is, without a doubt, very funny, but Gad really steals the film and the film’s few solid moments I had of laugh-out-loud comedy came almost exclusively from him. Finally, the film has some great special effects that really make the video game characters come to life—their glowing design were something I could either take or leave because it was a little distracting but they were never outright horrible. Also, I guess I can put this in the Win column as well, because Sean Bean is in the film and he doesn’t die; if that doesn’t already earn it a point in its favor than nothing will.
|I guess stating that Bean doesn't die does constitute a spoiler.|
With all that being said, this film is still an Adam Sandler movie and all the stuff that makes those movies a bit unbearable can still be seen here. For example, the story shoe-horns in a love story for Sandler with a girl that, not surprisingly, is out of his league. Even worse is how the film works really hard on this part of the story and it takes away from the video game action too often. So, there’s your first box in Adam Sandler Movie Bingo checked. Then you have the tons and tons of classic rock used as it’s soundtrack. Granted, I like classic rock and love the tunes in the film but you hear this in all of his films. This is really only a complaint because it’s just another cliché that you see in all of his films; so there’s your next box in the Bingo game checked. Next, you have his usual buddies playing roles they are not at all right for. Check another box. Yes, Nick Swardson is here but the real crime is having Kevin James, who seems to be de-evolving with his comedy with each passing year, play the President. That is literally the hardest part of this film to take seriously. Nothing about him screams President—especially not in his weak performance—and trying to believe that he holds office was a level of suspension of disbelief that no mortal man has.
|This is what you get when you have too many people voting for one candidate|
as a joke.
Finally, you have the ultimate Sandler cliché: Terribly unfunny jokes. As I state a lot when I review comedies, comedy is subjective and what I find funny, you might find dumb and the reverse is true, as well. All I can account for is my experience and way too many scenes in this film fall flat due to weak, weak punchlines, a director who can’t quite figure out how to make the gags work and the timing of it all (which is strange because it was directed by Chris Columbus and he nailed it on such films as Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and Adventures in Babysitting; just to name a few), and sad attempts to try and make the jokes work by beating the ever-lovin’ hell out of them like they are a dead horse and it made for an experience that basically constitutes a lot of cheesy or eye-rolling humor. At this point, you might have yelled, “BINGO!”
|For the record, this is now the second Sandler film in a row that hasn't made|
me wish for the sweet release of death. Am I just getting old, suffering from a new
strain of Stockholm Syndrome or is he slowly returning to his old form?
Even though there are a lot of unfunny moments to Pixels but there are enough of them—thanks to Dinklage, some moments from Brian Cox, and overwhelmingly due to Josh Gad—to make the film entertaining enough to be a fun watch. There are definitely far worse Sandler films that have been made and the sheer fact that this never elicited a groan or an overwhelming desire to close myself off to the world and give up on ever trying to find happiness says a lot. Overall, it’s not as bad as either Grown Ups film or Jack and Jill and it’s better than the last watchable one he did (Blended) but, it is nowhere near as epic as the time Futurama did the same story.