Director: Chris Columbus
Writers: Tim Herlihy (screenplay), Timothy Dowling (screenplay), Patrick Jean (short film)
Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan
Pixels tells the story (adapted from the short by Patrick Jean) of a bunch of dubious and loser people who were all addicted to arcade games when they were much, much younger as teenagers. As adults they became a mixed bunch with Sam Brenner (Sandler) became a television repair man, will Cooper somehow and miraculously managing to become the President of the United States with Eddie the Fire Blaster managing to land himself into prison. In a time of need these friends (and rivals) must band together to take down a new kind of global threat that only they with their particular skill-set can conquer. A fairly simple plot you might agree.
The threat in question being aliens declaring war on our little planet, due to misinterpreting some video feeds of us playing video games. So what do these aliens do? Well they invade us by sending armies of old arcade game characters to destroy our life as we know it. With the help of some hapless military personnel, our hero’s have three lives (groans) in order to save the day. Sounds cheesy? It sure as hell is, only unfortunately in this case not the nice creamy, crumbly kind of cheese that goes perfectly on toast, or in a nice sandwich but the kind that is all moldy, three years out of date and attacks you the minute you open the fridge.
So what went wrong here? Well it’s kind of difficult to pin down but the acting and the script sure don’t help. Firstly, the whole film is rushed, rather messy at times and a little all over the place. Chris Columbus is an excellent director with titles such as Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and two Harry Potter films to his credentials. It’s a shame to see him connected to a film like this. In fact, one could say it may well have been a whole lot worse without him and that says a lot unfortunately. But still, he must take some of the blame here for the mess that is this pixelated mess.
We do get quite a star-studded cast, all with vast experience. The downside here is that most of the (mostly) excellent cast really don’t have much to do and are not given enough screen-time to actually make us bother being interested. Dan Akroyd (Ghostbusters), Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal, 30 Rock), Sean Bean (who surprisingly does not die for once) and Brian Cox to name but a few all have little do in the whole scheme of things. Ashley Benson is thrown in purely for ‘fan service’ and should appease horny young teens. I should state that I’m not a fan of Sandler or his brand of child toilet humour comedy but appreciate that many people are. You won’t find any of that here really and I’m unsure if that is a good or bad thing. Sandler being his usual self is bad enough, Sandler just trying to be funny without that brand of humour is even less funny.
I get that he is a family man. I have nothing against the guy personally and I’m sure he a nice guy. He also likes to help his friends and family out and that is one major failing in a lot of his movies. The only family member missing from this production was the family dog and his grandmother, though they might be in here somewhere, it’s possible I could have just missed them. Adam’s friends are also abound and plenty. Again, this detracts from his work in my opinion and cheapens the production. For those who don’t realise, this is the ninth time that both Sandler and James have worked together. We get it, you like working with friends, but it is usually detrimental to the production.
Acting is generally of a reasonable level from the more seasoned vast members but overall is nothing memorable. I personally cringed every time Dinklage was on screen and thought he was terribly miscast. His performance could again just be directly attributed to the direction and awful script he was working with. He does ham his character up though and also has some of the best lines in a comedy film that really just isn’t that funny. Most of the jokes fall flat on their pixelated ass and the cross over of trying to make a film that appeals to both teens and mid forties guys (the video arcade age, of which I am in myself) just doesn’t work really for either demographic.
So is there anything to actually recommend here? well yes there a few things. To any United Kingdom viewers, Matt Frewer reprises his excellent Max Headroom character (fully digital now though I’m afraid) and it was personally good to see that character again after so long. Another highlight was also Mr. Pacman himself, Toru Iwatani who plays a factory repairman. I believe he was going to originally be given a speaking role but his lack of English forced a change. Either way it was wonderful to see the great man himself where his world famous character comes back to try and destroy us. Just a shame he didn’t get a bigger part.
The CGI in use here is also pretty good for the most part. If you grew up in the eighties as a teen like myself then you will have great fun spotting all those old favourites. Frogger, Paperboy, Super Mario and that favourite annoying bad guy Donkey Kong all make an appearance along with a host of others. It is fun to see them oversized (or life sized maybe) in their old original graphical glory destroying cities and the part where Pacman is terrorising the city streets is fun to watch (despite the bad Italian Job rip-off). But that is ultimately where the good points end. Unless you’re a huge Sony fan, as they made sure, to make sure, you know they helped finance the film.
This is a great concept really but a messy script, sub-par acting and a film that doesn’t really know what it wants to be so ends up having an identity crisis, which drops it down the entertainment stakes. This really could have been so much more than it ended up as, especially for people like myself. Some plus points for sure but overall this was very disappointing even though I wasn’t expecting very much in the first place from Sandler. Watch for some nostalgia but don’t expect to be thrilled (unless you’re a huge Sandler fan, in which case you will probably love it).
The Sage’s Rating: