Conceptually, Pixels is just too cool to stand. Aliens recover a pod launched from Earth containing footage of the 1982 video arcade championship and misinterpret it’s meaning as a declaration of war. Retaliation is swift as a gauntlet is thrown into the sand and the most famous (and infamous) characters from 1982 arcade culture strike back on home soil. Humanity must act quickly and best these space invaders in a best of three tournament with reality as we know it hanging in the balance. The catch: we must best them in 1982 video games – for real!
Yeah, it’s as epic as it sounds. The only problem is that the golden nuggets of awesomeness are buried within a trite Adam Sandler love story that we must suffer through for our reward of videogame-goodness. It almost feels as though we’re watching two films – one we desperately want to see and another we’ve seen a hundred times over in every film Adam Sandler has ever made (Punch- Drunk Love aside). The unfortunate consequence is that the film has a patch-work kind of feel to it, the snippets of the Adam Sandler movie have been forcibly inserted into the film we committed our $10 to see.
While Sandler, unfortunately expectantly brings nothing new to the table with his by the numbers wise-cracking character which is, quite frankly, Adam Sandler copy/pasted into every film, the rest of his supporting cast similar underwhelm. The truly heartbreaking quality is that almost everyone present is capable of so much more (I’m speaking of Dinklage, Cox and even Sandler himself (see aforementioned Punch-Drunk Love for more) than what was given here, but I guess this is to be expected. It had occurred to me about 3/4 way through that the film may have handled a little better under Broken Lizard than Happy Madison productions. Oh hell, let’s just bring Edgar Wright in on this one since we’re already doing it. Remember the magic of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? Yeah, that magic here would have rocked some face and really coaxed this cast into the next level. Make no mistake, Sandler, Cox and Dinklage need to stay, they just could have seriously benefit from stronger leadership and guidance.
It would be unfair to say that the film fell flat, after all it did have its moments, I just think that it the filmmakers failed the potential of the film by letting it underachieve. This is a movie with a very strong ebb and flow as you alternately relish and cringe through the film. Visually, the film is very satisfying. There’s just something unspeakably satisfying in how these characters are rendered and how the visual effects in general are handled. VFX department: nailed it. Thank you for that.
At the end of the day this film is its own parody. On the one hand the theme preaches the dangers of underachieving and this message seem almost twice as poignant when you apply it to the film itself. It’s such a strong concept, just teeming with potential and bristling with all the smiles and promises for no regret of a used car salesperson. It isn’t long before these promises are broken and buyer’s remorse comes perilously close to settling in. In the end it does narrowly avoid the fate of being a regretful experience, but sadly, also fails to delight as it should. Watch it if you must, but keep those expectations low to optimize the chance for enjoyment.