Pixels Review

Pixels poster 01
Title: Pixels
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Adam Sandler,
Kevin James,
Peter Dinklage,
Michelle Monaghan,
Genre: Comedy, Sci-fi
Runtime: 1 Hour 45 mins
Music: Henry Jackman
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 12A
Release Date: US: Jul 24 2015
UK: Aug 12 2015
See If You Like: Having a pallet cleanser, Not enjoying yourself,

Pray for a hard crash


“Well what did expect it to be?” is a question fired back by some critics of Adam Sandler’s retro gaming alien invasion disaster-piece Pixels but I honestly find that answer to be a bit lazy. What I expected Pixels to be was a Sandler influenced, sorry produced, piece of irredeemable trash from his own production company Happy Madison that joyrode over people’s positive memories of coin-op video gaming… and that’s exactly what it is. But yet, it manages to go further to become a film so inept, so lazy, so disgustingly mistreating, that it manages to plunge cinema to a new depth of depravity.

Tech equipment installer man Sam Brenner (Sandler, Blended) used to be someone once you know. Back in the days of the golden age of coin-op arcade video gaming, he was nearly the best in the world until he lost at the local gaming World Championship tournament. His loss was taped and sent into space as a record of human history. Nowadays, he exists but does little with his life apart from hang out with his buddy the President Of The United States now and again. Suddenly, an alien invasion invades Earth using gaming characters from Sam’s tape as their warrior as they accept Earth’s challenge to a real life video game fight for the planet. Sam and an varied group of eccentric gamers endeavour to save the day as they are the only people around who can remember how to beat the video games from yesteryear.



For those at home with your Sandler checklist bingo card drinking games waiting for me to go through every Sandler trope out of Pixels, prepare to be disappointed. I was stunned – STUNNED I tell you! – that not once does Hooters get a mention or is visited. Also, Adam Sandler does not manage to blag a holiday out of turning up on set for once (Everything’s filmed in Toronto apparently). Two home bankers straight on their arse out the gate, but don’t worry he’s still that man child slacker who is “destined for greater” you’ve seen in countless other Happy Madison produced shitfests. Again, we’re treated to a rather one sided tirade on the female populace just because one doesn’t think Brenner is a rebound when she’s drunk and vulnerable. I don’t know who is the worse misogynistic dinosaur of male representation in 2015 – Adam Sandler or Prince Phillip, the British Duke Of Edinburgh? Sorry Prince Phillip, I didn’t mean to tar you with that brush. In fact, Michelle Mongahan’s (The Best Of Me) character in this day of female empowerment and pro-female nature manages to set back all the advances made back 20 years as she offers zero comebacks whatsoever or is written to stand up for herself. Again, it’s an infuriating case of Sandler being put together with an impossibly beautiful woman and copping off with her by the time the credits roll in a totally unrealistic way.

pixels group

Elsewhere, Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2) continues his downward spiral as a comedy actor, as hanging out with Sandler is definitely influencing his ability to give two shovels of an Atari landfill whilst acting, as he gives a totally disinterested performance. His character as the President of the USA is completely batshit mad too. If he’s so unpopular, how is he President already? Also, surely the President can rustle up better experts on gaming than two of his mates from his childhood? Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer) continues to baffle me as to why he keeps getting decent roles as he plays the socially awkward yet puts it about conspiracy nut stereotyped nerd. He didn’t exactly excel as that either as a F-list Jonah Hill.

See, with the above lot, I can tolerate them being in this trainwreck as it is fitting for actors of their calibre or levels of not giving a damn. However, there are people who are clearly here for a paycheque who should not be here if they had any spine or pride. Sean Bean (Jupiter Ascending) makes it ‘two-for-two’ for bad movies in a charisma-less role which he thankfully doesn’t die in because it would then give Pixels something notable to say about it. Comedy acting legend Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters) is given nothing to work with in a waste of a cameo at the start of the film. Brian Cox (Believe) stands out like a sore thumb as he’s usually a sign of quality in any TV show or motion picture… and yet he goes ludicrously OTT with everything as he realises what a complete waste of time Pixels looks to turn out to be. Worst of all, fucking Tyrion Lannister himself Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) plays an utterly scummy cheating gaming god who wants to have threesomes with a Williams sister and some American chef lady on his own private island in a completely outlandish role… and you’re left stunted by his arrival since all the other negatives drag a what should be colourful character down with them. What a waste of some fine acting talent. Hell, the final insult is that they get in some random Japanese-western actor to play the creator of Pac-Man, complete with an uber racist “rah rah rah roh me so sori” accent. Because classy laughs eh Adam?

pixels group 2Usually I’ll try and pick out something which actually makes a film worth seeing here for balance, but I really am struggling with Pixels. The CG looks alright at least… that’s it. I’m willing to give old hand director Chris Columbus the benefit of the doubt here since this is the same guy who spearheaded the Harry Potter franchise coming to the big screen and was responsible for such iconic films like Home Alone, but only so far. The key to defeating the numerous gaming alien waves screams Brenner is to find the pattern. Well Columbus took that literally as the films is an unrelenting run of video game fight, exposition, rinse, repeat. There is some guff with Brenner connecting with Monaghan’s son and him learning a lesson from a modern gamer but there’s no real weight when delivered on screen and is over & done with in a second. The blocky pixulated versions of gaming characters are alright to look at but you are not afford a moment or two to enjoy them as they get lost in the noise and rapid confusing battles. There’s subplots completely glossed over, although that comes across as a godsend. James’ POTUS mentions he gets sod all quality time with the wife and the marriage is on the outs, only to see him and her enjoy a moment making a cake later… whilst the world is on the verge of ending. Talk about a lack of weight of realism. There is some diabolical filmmaking as we see the POTUS wearing the arcader jumpsuit Brenner and co. wear in the later half of the film, only for him to do his jacket up, then revealing he’s wearing it underneath his jacket! YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE HIM WEARING IT IN THE SCENE BEFORE WHEN THEY SEE HIM IN THE FUCKING CRANE! Damning of all, this hardly feels like a celebration of video games no matter the era. Wreck It Ralph from a couple of years ago went the extra mile to indulge itself in gaming lore, different genres and gamers of many varieties to appeal to everyone. Here, Pixels just takes a collective dump on gaming as a whole as it does not distinguish various aspects from one another and it puts up the middle finger to everyone who put down money to see it. Grand job.

The target audience for Pixels is certainly odd. With no video games after the mid 80’s making an appearance (me and my viewing party struggled to relate to any of the gaming characters on screen bar one or two icons), there’s an eye on that quarter feeding arcade machine generation. But those more casual of them lot are staring middle age hard in the face now and I doubt they would be as obsessed with their childhood hobbies as they are now, especially on a broader scale of games they may not have loved over others in the variety of scale here. There is an argument that this could be a family film so those people would be tempted to show their youngsters “hey this is what Dad played” back in the day but then there’s definitely one or two moments which don’t fly here and do you really want to see Sandler acting as a sexist scumbag in front of your kids because LELKomedy? Your hardcore arcade gamer from back in the day that still continues to obsess over various cabinets I can see going out of their way to see this… but after seeing the childish piss-taking of “nerds” that was probably insisted upon, it’s hardly treating a section of your target audience with respect. They are all portrayed as people with lowly skilled jobs or completely wacky, can’t get or hold on to a girl, overweight and make a disgrace of themselves, when realistically they’re just PEOPLE that are passionate about one hobby more than others. You don’t see classic car collectors get treated the same way do you?

pixels pacmanBeloved childhood gaming icons get dragged through the bush too. It’s utterly maddening to watch a film which features Pac-Man so prominently – and he’s a villain? Strange. It’s almost like you can hear the filmmakers not having a fucking clue about the source material at all. It’s hardly endearing to us cinemagoers to see an archaic but recognisable gaming icon become a villain after years of playing as him when he’s a hero. Also, poor Q*bert. He’s fairly cute and cuddly for a CGI construct and alright for a goofy bit of fun, but no, this is not YOUR Q*bert. He speaks full on English – not Q*bert-ese – pisses himself when frightened (yeah, digital pee and all…) and most shockingly of all changes form in the final scene so the awkward conspiracy nut geek gets to have it off with his childhood fantasy female character… and they have baby Q*berts… It’s pretty much one step below a hentai cartoon of Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario in terms of poor taste. I’m struggling to think of another as bad example of missing the mark to a fanbase and turning a beloved character into something so foul and unwanted. It makes you want to invade every executive board room of Hollywood, strap them all to an electric chair and buy them a laptop programmed solely to Reddit to get a better understanding of modern culture & what people want from big screen adaptations from other media; any clicks away to older references or to dick & fart jokes is punishable by death.

My problem with Pixels is, as bad as it’s been made, as much as the cast don’t give a collective toss, as shocking as they treat the source material videogame characters and their fans, I don’t hate it. With Ted 2, at least my frustration of Seth MacFarlane and his winking to the camera “See? I know this and can reference it” humour  is aimed at something and someone that should be doing better. With this, I expected it to be a lacklustre joyride as Sandler and his merry band of hanger-oners ride their appearance fee lawnmowers all over someone else’s childhood which I can’t relate to and that’s exactly what I got. I walked away feeling numb from how atrociously nothing the experience was. I feel sorry for those genuinely excited at seeing their arcade gaming icons being pissed on by  people who could not give a flying fuck about them or as long as they squeeze at least a dollar profit out of their appearance. I really just want to throw a nice warm rug and make a warm cup of tea for our fallen heroes who don’t deserve to be touched inappropriately by Sandler who is now undoubtedly an aging husk of a comedic “talent” who relies on taking the piss out of the opposite sex, other cultures and races for a laugh. Pull out the cable to this arcade machine and dump it in the sea. A strong contender for the Worst Movie Ever in recent times, Pixels is a complete waste of one hour 45 minutes that serves to show how little we have accomplished as a human collective in recent times.

Terry Lewis@lewisonlife