Release Date: July 24, 2015
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Tim Herlihy (screenplay), Timothy Dowling (screenplay), Tim Herlihy (screen story), Patrick Jean (short film)
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Matt Lintz, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Jane Krakowski, Dan Aykroyd, Affion Crockett, Lainie Kazan, Ashley Benson, Denis Akiyama, Tom McCarthy, Tim Herlihy, Jackie Sandler, Jared Sandler, William S. Taylor
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 105 minutes
Production Company: 1492 Pictures, Columbia PIctures, Happy Madison Productions
Genre: Action, Comedy, Science Fiction
The thought of aliens invading planet Earth through classic arcade video games sounds thrilling. Half of those games involve outer space in the first place, so the concept piqued my interest. If you think about it, how cool would it be to see a giant Pac-Man sprinting through town destroying everything in its path? As long as it isn’t my town, the idea sounds amazing. On the flip side, this could be a disaster, and a strong one if successful. Of course, it all comes down to the way the script is handled.
With that said, Adam Sandler is arguably at his career’s end. Kevin James’ poor attempt at comedy in Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Grown Ups only suggests that he needs to get his act together as well before he also falls down the pit of doom. With both these actors taking the lead, Pixels is the poorest excuse for entertainment I’ve seen in a while.
In my opinion, Kevin James has only delivered decent comedy in his hit TV show The King of Queens. That was a while ago, and everything he’s been a part of recently has been a disappointment. Adam Sandler is a hit or miss for my particular taste now. Sure I loved Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, but that was decades ago. Today, whether I’ll walk out of a theater smiling when he’s the protagonist is as unpredictable as a coin flip.
I thought the fun, silly concept of Pixels would offer just that—tons of fun and silliness—but I was wrong. Both characters portrayed by James and Sandler are painfully weak, to say the least. If this film was aimed only at children, I may have given it a pass, but after listening to some of the attempted jokes, that does not seem to be the case. You can’t take the characters remotely seriously with a story as dumb as that of Pixels. I want rules created in the universe for levity and stakes, but all the actors/actresses don’t take it seriously on screen. How can the audience care what happens on screen if the onscreen presence doesn’t? It’s a hard task that I gave up on.
The story is in place but has been handled with minimal effort. The movie should be rewarded for its simplicity. It has no climax, and if it does, it is one you create yourself. There are several instances where no one thinks of the outcome and just goes along for the ride. Never mind thinking things through—their plan is simply just to shoot the bad guys, and still no one listens. It becomes difficult to root for anyone. Other than a few moments, there is no excitement to be had—just constant watch staring to check if your count to sixty seconds is as accurate as your wrist tool. Also, other than two small characters, the remaining jokes fall flat. To add to that, I didn’t care who lived or died. It all meant little to me.
James and Sandler taking action against the alien invaders back-to-back is one of the better portions of the film, but it is too far in between to make a significant stance. They look as if they are genuinely having fun, and this does remind you of old video games. The effects are spot on and complement the action. The only other redeeming factors are the characters Eddie (Peter Dinklage) and Ludlow (Josh Gad). These two are hilarious and are my favorite part of this enormous mess. There is something about their performance and them embracing everything around them that got me on board—a triumph they were able to pull off that the rest of the film could not. Even if their presence isn’t logical (in terms of the plot), their accomplishment of victory is enjoyable.
Pixels is ridiculously bad on multiple levels; so much so that I don’t think those involved even care. This is a cash grab by the studio, or actors, or both, and that shows high and bright. For the material they had to work with, this is probably the laziest attempt at writing I’ve ever seen. The more you think about what takes place on screen, the more frustrated you feel. The scene where a woman willfully objectifies herself is the last straw.
This film had so much potential to be a fun comedy that everyone would be able to enjoy. Instead, it is a waste of money and an example of how not tarnish legendary material that laid the foundation of the great video game entertainment we have today.