Pixels: A Tortuously Contrived but Colourful Homage to Video Game Nostalgia [Review]

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I don’t get Adam Sandler.  I didn’t like Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore and I haven’t seen anything else of his.  I just don’t think he’s funny.  So I fully acknowledge that I might be the wrong person to be reviewing (and indeed watching) this film.  If you’re an Adam Sandler fan, you should skip my review and just go see the movie; I’m sure you’ll like it.

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When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.

In this movie, the President of the United States (after Obama) is a buffoon (Kevin James) and still best friends with former video game champion Brenner (Adam Sandler), whom he invites into the Oval Office to advise on affairs of state.  Also in this movie — giant aliens made of light invade our world after seeing our video games from the 1980s.  Any thinking I might do about this movie would be definitely overthinking it.

download (1)Maybe it would be fair to say there were moments in this movie that I liked.  And there were.   I’m a video game fan – I liked them in the 80s and I like them now so I was on board with the subject matter.  There was an homage to Centipede that was beautiful to watch.  The colours of the aliens were fantastic  There were a few good moments of acting here and there, particularly from Peter Dinklage.  Even Adam Sandler himself, who plays the rueful I’ve-made-some-bad-life-choices character very well, had moments of relatability.

But aside from Peter Dinklage and a brief couple scenes with Sean Bean, the acting wasn’t very good.  There were no shirtless handsome men at all.  Adam Sandler and love interest Michelle Monaghan didn’t have any particular chemistry.  The characters seemed clichéd – there was the crazy conspiracy nut, the cocky criminal genius, the cold-hearted secret service agent who slowly shows her human side.  There’s nothing wrong with clichés if you play with them and test their limits, but this movie didn’t do that, it simply portrayed the two dimensional characters as archetypes and left them there.Pixels-Movie-Trailer-2

I couldn’t tell who this movie was aimed at.  At first I thought it might have been a kid’s movie, but anyone young enough to not mind the general goofy awkwardness of Pixels probably wasn’t alive in the 80s (or the 90s), let alone nostalgic for them.  It probably wouldn’t be gamers themselves as these are often the same people who will enjoy analyzing the logistics of a movie or show and I feel Pixels would not hold up to that.

At the heart of this movie is the message that even if you think you’ve been wasting your time in life (like playing video games in the 80’s) at any moment your luck will change and what you know will become useful.  I appreciate the sentiment – it’s strongly positive and optimistic.  Of course in this case, to do this with the skill of playing video games, the scenario it presents is tortuously contrived.  Crap, I forgot – overthinking.    But still, I think I might have preferred a movie with the opposite message – Life Choices Matter.

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