UK Release Date: 12th August 2015
Runtime: 106 minutes
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Tim Herlihy, Timothy Dowling
Starring: Adam Sandler, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Brian Cox, Sean Bean
Synopsis: An alien race attacks Earth in the form of classic videogames and a band of retro gaming nerds are recruited to defend the planet.
It wasn’t long ago that Adam Sandler was stinking up cinemas in The Cobbler, looking stunningly bored in the process. He’s back to the mainstream with Pixels, which is an action–comedy directed by Chris Columbus, who helmed the early Harry Potter movies. Unfortunately, despite an intriguing premise based on an acclaimed short film, it bears all of the typical hallmarks of a classic Sandler turkey.
Sam (Sandler) is a tech support guy who fixes gadgets for the likes of suburban mother Violet (Michelle Monaghan). He also happens to be the best friend of the President (Kevin James) and is called in as a confidante when aliens attack Earth in the form of a video game. Violet turns out to be a member of the President’s core team and joins Sandler – along with conspiracy theorist Ludlow (Josh Gad) and bad boy gamer Eddie (Peter Dinklage) – to neutralise the threat.
Pixels never quite seems sure who its audience is. The action premise, with its colourful special effects, seems tailor-made for a young teen audience, which is made doubly clear by the 12A certificate. However, the entire film is peppered with uncomfortably blatant sexual references – one of the final moments is a threesome joke. It’s a little too childlike for the adult audience, but considerably too adult for the kids.
| "I believe that some alien life-force has sent real life video games to attack us."
On its surface, Pixels perhaps seems more like “a film starring Adam Sandler” than an “Adam Sandler film”. Once it gets going, though, it becomes clear that the insidious influence of Happy Madison runs through the film like a stick of rock. The moment it is revealed that Kevin James plays the President of the United States and Sandler makes a creepy advance on a crying woman in a closet, there’s no mistaking the kind of movie that is playing out.
Sandler, as usual, is phoning it in to an absurd degree in Pixels, never looking like he’s having as much fun as the film wants the audience to be having. The sheer implausibility of James as President goes without any sort of mention, Dinklage has wandered in from a different film and Josh Gad continues to prove that his charm only extends to animated snowmen. Most depressing is Michelle Monaghan, whose only role is to act as a prize for Sandler’s character.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing to enjoy in Pixels. The effects sequences are beautifully realised and often great fun. Were it not for the continued gurning of Sandler and co, the spectacle of a Pacman-versus-cars war on city streets would be a recipe for blockbuster gold. Unfortunately, we’re never more than a few minutes away from some lazy misogyny or a gag about how fat Kevin James is.
| "Don’t tell anybody that I killed a Smurf."
It’s almost difficult to be mad at Pixels because it seems to be a film made almost entirely without effort in an attempt to exploit video game nostalgia for cheap blockbuster bucks. There’s the blood of an interesting film running through its veins, but it’s polluted by the crass humour and effort-free performances of the Happy Madison ensemble.
Pop or Poop?
Unsure of its tone and packing crass gags it never earns laughter for, Pixels is a good blockbuster concept mutilated by the interference of creative forces ill-suited to it.
Thankfully, Pixels was a box office flop and hopefully it will soon fade into obscurity, which is probably where it belongs, for Sandler completists only.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.