Review: Pixels

  • Movie Review
  • Saturday, 15 Aug 2015

On my mark, everyone start channelling the Ghostbusters ... only, filter out the funny.

Just so everyone’s on the same page: Pixels is a sci-fi/fantasy comedy in which a bunch of video game arcade champs from the 1980s step up to save the world in 2015 when it’s invaded by aliens posing as old video game characters.

Got that? It’s preposterous and – given the obnoxiousness of some characters – occasionally offensive to just about everyone. But now you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

And given that it’s a Chris Columbus movie, the same guy who made Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire and two Harry Potter movies, among others, there’s bound to be some light-hearted fun in store. Right?

Still, it was somewhat surprising to see how just about everyone gave no quarter (hur hur) in critically mauling this Adam Sandler starrer. Ah, Adam Sandler ... that must be it. Apparently, a string of flops, a media-unfriendly image and a tendency to make essentially the same movie again and again with the same bunch of buddies (no Rob Schneider or Steve Buscemi here though) have left Sandler bereft of goodwill.

Truth be told, I didn’t mind him all that much in this movie. In Pixels, he is more or less playing the same character as always: Sam Brenner, a good-natured sort-of-slacker who has never really done anything with his life ever since coming in second in the world video game championships back in 1982.

When aliens misinterpret footage of those games – launched into outer space as part of a showcase of Earth’s culture – as a challenge of war, they invade; and suddenly Sam and his fellow gamers’ expertise and skills could be the only things standing between Earth and annihilation.

Pixels is not the horror show I expected, but it falls short in several key areas. The video game characters coming to “life” do look and sound like you’d expect, but there is very little evocation of nostalgia, nor is there much exuberance (see Wreck-It Ralph for a masterclass in that; and also in the proper use of Q*bert in a movie).

Most of the time the action is too frenetic to be very involving, with possibly only the much-publicised Pac-Man sequence offering some chuckles and surprises.

With Sandler just being the same as almost every other Sandler character, and therefore the cinematic equivalent of a blind spot, it’s left to his co-stars to keep us interested between visual effects sequences.

As the clueless US President, Kevin James does deliver some knee-slappers (and also serves as the butt of a couple); Michelle Monaghan is a semi-vulnerable but tough and appealing romantic interest; and Peter Dinklage ... well, the guy could read the ingredient list on a pack of instant noodles and still hold your attention.

It’s actually Josh Gad, rather than Sandler, whose character Ludlow Lamonsoff, one of the video game champs, is the most grating. Part conspiracy theory nut, part obsessive creep and part compulsive yeller, Ludlow is a caricature of stereotypes and ... just stop. Enough, for mercy’s sake.

So like I said earlier, with Pixels, you know what you’re letting yourself in for but the overall experience is mediocre. It doesn’t have the kind of spectacular action to make you go “whoa” or the sort of “insert cloyin’ here” heart to make you go “aww” – stuff that would help you forget the moments that fall flat. Or maybe it’s simply that watching Fantastic Four the previous day helped me feel less pain at this one.


Director: Chris Columbus

Cast: Adam Sandler, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Jane Krakowski, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Dan Aykroyd


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Review: Pixels


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