Pixels is based on a short film of the same name (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou8vRWTSsJo) and is directed by Chris Columbus, who also directed the first two Harry Potter movies as well as some other good films such as Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire.
The film opens in 1982 with a young Brenner championing many arcade games accompanied by his friend Cooper, who struggles at everything but the claw. This flashback culminates in the 1982 arcade game championships and sees Brenner going head to head with The Fire Blaster in a game of Donkey Kong.
30 years on and Brenner’s (Adam Sandler) skills have got him a job in tech installation, whereas Cooper (Kevin James) has fared much better and is now President of the US. This is despite the fact he isn’t that great at reading, a recurring joke which falls flat.
Footage of the 1982 championships was sent into space by NASA and discovered by aliens. They misinterpret the streaming of the video games as a sign of attack, they in turn respond by attacking Earth in the form of video games. Cooper calls in Brenner as he is an expert on the subject and the (attempted) laughs go on from there.
Pixels takes a long time to get going with the 1982 segment dragging on and on, they needed to get to the alien invasion faster. Not that it is without fault when it gets to the action.
One of the big problems with Pixels is that it’s not clear what genre it is supposed to be. Comedy, action, drama, romance, sci-fi all get a look in and whilst there is nothing wrong with mixing genres, in this case the writers and actors don’t seem to know what they are aiming for. This leaves it being a bit of a mess.
Many of the cast seem asleep for much of the movie, especially Sandler who brings nothing to the role. Michelle Monaghan, who is usually dependable, really struggles as the love interest for Sandler. There were moments she was aiming for comedy but it was just cringe worthy, better off sticking to drama.
Kevin James’ Cooper is instantly forgettable; his one distinguishable feature being his inability to read well. That does not make for a great character. Josh Gad plays Ludlow, a bit of a loser; he’s shoehorned into the film without much reasoning behind it. He plays the fool well, which he should given that he has played this role or something similar many times before.
Peter Dinklage is great as Brenner’s nemesis The Fire Blaster and his mullet is impressive. Dinklage is arguably the best thing about Pixels, although cameos by Serena Williams and Martha Stewart were well placed.
I was a little disappointed that Ashley Benson didn’t even get to speak as Lady Lisa; the character existed so there was something pretty on the screen. Would it have hurt to give her one line of dialogue, really? I wasn’t expecting a film based on feminist values but let the little lady speak.
The action scenes are average, working with 80s video games there is only so much that can be done. Also the budget for Pixels was relatively small, so don’t expect any Mission Impossible sized stunts. Most of the humour misses its mark in Pixels, with only a few laughs throughout (and that’s being generous). It’s a distinctly average film, it’s not one of the worst things I have ever seen but it’s not recommended viewing unless you’re a big Adam Sandler fan.
Oh and technically, it should be Voxels not Pixels but that is the least of this film’s problems.
*Pictures courtesy of Sony Pictures