Save your quarters!
The first thing you see is the Sony logo…followed soon after by Columbia Pictures and the lovely Torch Lady. I always think of Ghostbusters. Other notable gems from this company include Men in Black and (the first two) Spider-Man movies.
But then we have the Happy Madison production company, the conflation of Adam Sandler’s original movie hits, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore; other than Waterboy it’s been all downhill from there.
Finally, and surprisingly, 1492 Pictures’ logo pops up, informing me that this movie needed four different creative enterprises to make it happen, and one of them was the delightful little mind that brought the world the first two Home Alone movies and the first two Harry Potter films.
So if I didn’t know better I’d think this movie had a good foundation of production to be built on. Sure enough Chris Columbus’ name appeared on the screen as director, and though he’s not Spielberg, he’s responsible for writing and/or directing some pretty good movies. I mean the guy wrote Gremlins, one of the best Christmas movies ever. He wrote GOONIES for crying out loud. The man’s not a complete hack.
But Adam Sandler on the other hand is. He is a hack. He is a complete hack.
Adam Sandler’s supreme hackishness is so massive it swallowed up whatever skill and wonder Chris Columbus might otherwise have offered such a fun and silly premise. This movie didn’t have to be The Godfather. No one is going to sit down in the theater to watch this movie expecting to see the next great film of our time.
It’s a silly idea: Aliens misinterpret video games as a declaration of war and strike back using our own creations against us. Video Gamers are enlisted as the special soldiers needed to combat the menace. It’s basically Independence Day, if Will Smith was Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum. All the Goldblums vs Aliens. That’s the idea behind Pixels.
This movie needed someone to push the reset button!
We begin with a trip down memory lane. 1982 was the golden era of the arcade and our heroes, Sam and Will, take in the games. Will struggles but Sam is a savant, mastering the Pac Man patterns seemingly instantly. He and Will make their way to the Arcade World Championships and its here that the first real problem with the movie appears.
The dialogue is insulting. Not just the words, but the stilted line readings. It’s high school drama club bad. Two characters are looking at each other, and speaking words in the direction of each other, and even responding to each others statements with statements of their own, but…there’s no communication. It’s just line-reading. Independent, broken, line-reading.
It’s amateur hour and Adam Sandler hasn’t even appeared on the screen yet.
Oh wait here he is, nine minutes into the movie he arrives as the film jumps to the modern day and to Sam and Will as adults. Sam is a knock-off Geek Squad tech support/equipment installer guy and Will is
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The President of the United States.
Only, because this is an Adam Sandler movie, Kevin James is playing the dumbest, worst President ever depicted on film. In this world the President calls his old buddy over to the White House to talk strategy and no one bats an eye. Sam meanwhile charmingly puts the moves on the beautiful Michelle Monaghan, a feat only possible in an Adam Sandler movie starring Adam Sandler. When he’s not doing that he’s barging into national security meetings where he drops mad disses yo on the chairman of the Join Chiefs.
While all of this Act One nonsense is happening, we are treated to cutaways of military bases being overrun by alien forces. If the other stuff wasn’t so eye-twitching and grating on the nerves, the cheesy plot stuff would be charming and fun. There’s a fun little 80’s Amblin movie buried here somewhere (I would have loved to have seen this set entirely in the 80’s, but nevermind that) but its lost under a mountain of horrible puns, bad cliches and even worse dialogue.
It’s Game Over for this film!
The gist of the film is that the highly skilled troops are unable to adapt to the video game-mimicking aliens, but super nerd Adam Sandler is able to adapt into a soldier. He recognizes the Galaga pattern, takes down Space Invaders, and in the climax of the second act, engages in a Manhattan-sized game of Pac Man.
After that, the next notable thing that happens in the movie is the climax of the third act. In between are thirty minutes of nothing at all happening. There’s meaningless filler of both the talking kind and the mindless action kind. The novelty of seeing Q*Bert, Frogger, Tetris pieces and even Mario (as Jumpman) hopping around city streets wears off pretty quickly when there’s nothing of significance to it. By this point in the movie it’s obvious to all that the story ran out of story a long time ago. The final battle with Donkey Kong is cool, but not cool enough to redeem the movie.
In the end it’s a clever idea that was too thin and couldn’t sustain a ninety minute running time, couldn’t survive horrible acting and script decisions, and couldn’t simulate the fun that comes with actually playing those old games.
Not as vomit-inducing as Super Mario Bros: The Movie, but it’s a far cry from Wreck-it-Ralph.
Not even a Game Genie could salvage it!
(Spoiler: Sean Bean is in this movie…and he lives!)