Pixels Review

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Sam Brenner: Pac Man’s a bad guy?

Beware: Spoilers may follow.

When I first heard the concept of this movie it felt like a video game movie fantasy come to life. Aliens coming to earth in the form of retro video games and declaring war on humanity? Sold! Then I saw Adam Sandler’s name attached to it. I was a little less thrilled knowing Sandler’s streak of bad movies. Then I saw the movie and it was not a great one. People often have declared this as one of Sandler’s worst and while I definitely disagree in an age where cinema has evolved it’s definitely something that remains in the typical Sandler tropes to the point that it’s frustrating why anyone thinks they work.

The story involves a group of intergalactic aliens intercepting video feeds of classic video games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war in forms of the video game characters. In attempt to combat these video game characters President William Cooper (Kevin James) recruits former video game champion and his childhood friend now a home-theater installer Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) to lead a group of old school arcade players along with military specialist Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) to lead a battle to save the planet.

The main problem with the story is that it never fully embraces its core goofy concept but instead uses it as a means for the typical Adam Sandler tropes that have been tired since the 90s: a down on his luck has been who people think will amount to nothing, him meeting a beautiful woman who’s way out of his league and presumably has no chance with even though it’s obvious they are going to get together. The fact that there is little attempt at chemistry between the two only furthers this. Another problem with the fact that it never embraces its goofiness is Kevin James as the United States president. If the movie went all out in its self-aware goofiness maybe it could be hilarious but for the most part it’s serious and he doesn’t even act like a president as much as he does the goofy best friend like he always does. There’s also Josh Gad as Ludlow who at the time had been getting quite a following due to his role as Olaf in Frozen. And some of the jokes given to him do feel like they could be funny but they’re overstated and repetitive There’s also his obsession with video game character Lady Lisa (Ashley Benson) and it’s not only creepy but considering how he gets her in the end it’s even creepier. In all honesty however the performances aren’t the problem as much as it is the roles they’re given are nothing short of stereotypical and the writing for them had been done to death at this point. None of the jokes feel fresh when it comes to nerds, the military, video games, and the like. There are some that I chuckled at occasionally but for the most part I just felt confused at the attempts at comedy. It really doesn’t have an idea of what it’s going for: it attempts to be juvenile but its nostalgic pop culture references seem to be going for an adult audience and it doesn’t work.

If there is one thing I can give the movie it’s that when it comes to showcasing the special effects particularly when it comes to the pixel video game characters it looks amazing. The detail on them looks amazing, they have a giant and haunting image, and the effects really emulate that of pixilation. Even that scene of Pac Man’s creator biting him even if we know what’s going to happen it’s still funny cause it gives that sense of goofy adventure that really should have been in the rest of the movie.

At the end of the day this isn’t the worst Adam Sandler movie or even the worst movie of 2015 like many have made it out to be. Sandler has done far worse and there were quite a few worse movies than this. Some of the effects are well done and there is a funny moment here and there. But the fact that Sandler is still using these tired clichés of the 90s with nothing new is what really makes this movie infuriating. If you want to see this concept done so much better watch the short it was based on or heck even watch that episode of Futurama, Anthology of Interest Part 2.

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