Possible spoilers ahead!
After a second-place finish in a video game championship when he was ten-years old, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) spent the next three decades underachieving at pretty much everything. Instead of attending MIT as he’d planned, Brenner struggled to overcome the disappointment of his video game loss, settling for a thankless tv installation job.
But when mysterious attackers destroy a U.S. air force base, Brenner’s childhood best friend (the now President of the United States of America), Will Cooper (Kevin James) calls on the former video game expert to consult on a new extra terrestrial threat.
Sam is soon informed that an advanced alien race misinterpreted a Reagan-era space transmission (featuring video of 1982 pop icons, TV shows, and video games) as a hostile challenge for the fate of both worlds.
Not sure on how this war for our planet will be waged, President Cooper and the U.S. military have no choice but to give Brenner command of the Arcaders, a team of classic video game pros, in an 8-bit battle for humanity’s survival.
“Pixels” is based on the viral short film hit of the same name, written and helmed by Patrick Jean. The big screen film is a mishmash of good ideas mixed with Adam Sandler’s usual 7th grade comedy. Fans of 8-bit arcade games will enjoy a few moments, but the typical Adam Sandler nonsense overshadows a clever premise.
Adam Sandler’s arc in the film will be familiar to anyone who has seen any of his movies over the years. That’s a shame, because this character had room and opportunities to grow, but instead Sandler went for the same crap that hasn’t worked in well over a decade.
“Pixels” does have some good things going for it: nostalgia for one thing, anyone who grew up in the 1980’s will find a few enjoyable moments. The movie also has all too brief appearances by Brian Cox, Jane Krakowski, and Sean Bean. I belive this was the first time Cox and Bean shared screen time since “Troy,” and they were both pretty funny.
Hell, even Kevin James (and I can’t belive I’m saying this) was surprisingly good in this movie. For once he didn’t play it 100 % dumb. For better or worse, James was the president and he was smart enough to realize he was out of his depth in this war and needed help from an old friend.
So is “Pixels” a total failure? I guess not. The visual effects and overall use of 8-bit games as big screen villains was decent enough. Co-star Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, and Michelle Monaghan are each afforded a few moments to shine in the spotlight. But Peter Dinklage is the scene-stealer of the movie.
That said, its hard to ignore the fact that Adam Sandler doesn’t add anything to this movie. Instead, Sandler brings a decent premise and promising cast down to his level. And that’s not good for anyone involved.
“Pixels” final score: 4.5