The name Adam Sandler brings with it a wagon fleet of mixed feelings and debilitating dread; with his publically acknowledged careless attitude towards his films (and it shows even if he didn’t acknowledge it), we all keep expecting when the next “Jack and Jill” is going to crawl out of his brain damaged, infantile mind. However, just because he stars in a movie does not mean the movie is HIS kind of film (like “Blended” or “The Cobbler”). This was my hope when I went to see Chris Columbus’s (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone) Adam Sandler lead film: “Pixels.” Based off a short film of the same name (and depending on who you ask; a certain “Futurama” episode), a space shuttle launched in the 80’s containing examples of classic video characters is intercepted by aliens as a challenge from Earth.
Classic game champions Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) are recruited by the President (Kevin James) to work with lieutenant colonel Violet (Michelle Monaghan), to battle real life video game characters like Pac-Man, Centipede, and Donkey Kong; created to destroy the Earth by the aliens. Before I even saw this movie, I came across countless scathing reviews that made this movie sound like it was pulling teeth while being set on fire and stomped out by a dozen football players with cleats. One online reviewer actually said they’d have more fun stabbing their own eyes out rather than seeing “Pixels.” Honestly, I know Sandler has left a trail of corrosive turds behind to stink up his resume something awful, but when it comes to “Pixels”; I actually had a lot of fun with it.
Nothing about this movie is meant to be seen, taken or viewed as some sort of serious sci-fi drama; nor is it meant to be taken as another 2 hours of Sandler getting peed or crapped on by deer. “Pixels” is a visual feast of video game gags, references and pixelated playfulness that knows how to show an audience a good time. This is just fun, it’s made for pure fun and everyone and everything in it delivers exactly that. Sandler kind of breezes through the role he’s given; that I can admit I’m not happy about. I actually liked the idea of people viewed as losers and game junkies actually having some meaningful application in a real world situation, and the character of Brenner is actually one a lot of geeks and gamers can understand and relate to.
Dinklage and Gad are the real scene stealers; Columbus must have just told them to do and say whatever they want and the results are surprisingly hilarious. They never know how much crazy they should let out on screen so they just let it all fall out and keep that momentum all the way to the end. One thing I found the most fascinating is how the aliens applied these “games” with rules; setting up battles and actually following the rules of their games of origin within the real world’s boundaries. The Pac-Man sequence with the “ghost cars” and chasing/deleting Pac-Man through a busy city was especially entertaining and made excellent use of game mechanics and special effects. Despite what haters may say, Sandler isn’t rotting this movie from the inside out: its lack of ambition is.
“Pixels” primary mistake is that it doesn’t ever try to reach any higher with its material, there is LOTS of potential to take this concept to new highest; goofy or not. You’re given enough fun to make the movie ticket price worthwhile, but it doesn’t go any further to truly cement this as a must have title; and they could have achieved that if they pushed the quirkiness and the goofiness a bit further. Even something silly can be seen as something great if you work at it hard enough; “Pixels” has hard work put into it but…it’s just enough to pass, not enough to truly succeed like you’d hope it would. Overall, “Pixels” is NOT an “Adam Sandler” movie; it’s actually funny and I had a legitimately kick-ass time watching this film. I loved Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage and I’m happy to let all who read this know that you should not believe the trash talk surrounding this film; it’s not the greatest knock out hit of the summer but it is a movie that knows a thing or two about TRUE fun.