Directed by Chris Columbus. Produced by Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Allen Covert, Mark Radcliffe, and Michael Barnathan. Written by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling. Release date: July 24, 2015.
While it probably won't go down in history as the worst movie featuring characters from videogames - I'm sure one of Uwe Boll's adaptations still holds that title - Pixels will be on that list. It's kind of hard to imagine that a movie with such a great premise - aliens try to destroy our planet by using retro videogame characters - would turn out to be such a drab, unfunny, and mean movie, but then you realize that it's a Happy Madison film, and it all starts to become clearer.
Happy Madison, for those unaware, is the studio run by Adam Sandler, who is also the lead of Pixels. He plays Sam Brenner, someone who was really good at arcade games in the '80s and now works as someone who installs home theater systems. His best friend is Will Cooper (Kevin James), another videogame player who somehow became the President of the United States. Yes, you read that correctly: Kevin James is playing the President of the United States. Someone probably should have looked at that casting and immediately thought about how life is too short. James and the rest of the cast are all awful, but most of them are given so little to do that you can't really blame them for phoning it in.
Anyway, because of reasons too contrived to relay, aliens have challenged humans to big-scale versions of '80s arcade games. So, it's up to Sam, Will, and a couple of other individuals lovingly referred to as "nerds" to win the games and save the planet. The idea, as far as the filmmakers are concerned, is to appeal to the nostalgia that current-day gamers might have for games like Pac-Man, Centipede, Space Invaders, and so on.
The problem with this is that it's a PG-13 Adam Sandler vehicle, so the humor is far too often than not too juvenile for that theoretical target audience to enjoy. It instead is geared more toward children around the age of 10, most of whom will have no relation to the games that the film prominently features. It will struggle to hook newer gamers and it'll alienate older ones. Who, exactly, is supposed to benefit from Pixels? The answer? Adam Sandler.
Here is a movie that feels like it was created just so that we can watch Adam Sandler save the world, get the girl (Michelle Monaghan), hang out with his friends, and garner all the praise that can be heaped upon him in the movie's universe. Apart from the "save the world" part, that seems to be the end goal of most of Sandler's comedies. He gets to go on a paid vacation, he gets to co-star with an attractive female, and he gets to bring his friends along for the ride. This is another one of those, except now we have to watch him shoot classic videogame characters and throw insults at pretty much everyone's way.