A film that swings violently from mediocre to catastrophically bad
Generally speaking being aware that Adam Sandler is going to be in a movie is enough to have many of us film lovers have our fingers crossed hoping the film isn’t going to stink the joint out. Pixels doesn’t do that but that is damming with faint praise. Pixels is directed by Chris Columbus who back in the day gave us Home Alone (1990) and Mrs Doubtfire (1993). The premise is an exciting one – footage from a video arcade world championship is sent into space on a Satellite with the hope that one day it will encounter alien life and act as an introduction to the human race. Sadly the message is mistaken as a challenge to a battle and the aliens send word that they wish to take on the Earth’s greatest warriors in a variety of full sized video games from the ’80’s. It just so happens that Adam Sandler is a superstar classic arcade games player, who was a finalist at the ’82 championships, and one of his pals from the time is the now President of the United States of America … let that sink in for a moment … really … take a deep breath and think about that last statement.
Lets jump right into that last point, the point at which the film falls over and never recovers. Kevin James plays Sandler’s friend Cooper who through methods unknown grows from being a bit of a teenage loser into an even bigger loser as POTUS. One can but assume he relied on the same team that helped George Bush Jnr into the White House. Anyhow the film is further undermined by the ghastly performance delivered by Peter Dinklage as the gentleman who competed with Sandler at the ’82 games. It’s difficult to describe how bad he is and just what it was that made my teeth grind. Maybe it was the deep voice? Perhaps his desire for a threesome with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart? Or it could be the complete lack of direction he was given? That was certainly true of the film as a whole which at times just wanders along and stuff happens in the right order but without much style or urgency.
The most troubling aspect of the film was the treatment of gay behaviour. Josh Gad plays a really nerdy former gamer/conspiracy theorist who we see has created a comic book/games character who is tall and blond and leggy. Yet when he meets some Navy SEALs he stars fawning over a tall African American gentleman commenting on his Nubian beauty. In a scene shortly after Gad can be seen smacking the bottoms of a group of SEALs as ‘encouragement’ but clearly presented as having some form of sexual element. This behaviour is then never seen again for the rest of the movie and (SPOILER ALERT!) Gad ends up with the blond women of his dreams brought to life by the aliens as a trophy. We’ll overlook the fact that there is only one meaningful female character with the other is presented as a trophy. The film suggests that gay men are out of control before deciding to forget that the character maybe confused emotionally presumably to be more acceptable to North American family audiences.
Pixels is not a disaster become there are a few moments, especially early on, when some of the jokes land and some of the scenes of the battles with the oversized Pac Man and Donkey Kong are fun. Sadly they’re nowhere near common enough to get me to like this film. My rating 2/5.