★ / ★★★★
Congratulations to the screenwriters, Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, for taking a really cool premise and diluting it down to tripe so worthless, so unimaginative, and so unfunny, the film is actually insulting to sit through. For most of the picture’s duration, I sat in my chair with an increasing feeling of embarrassment and anger for everyone involved—but especially for the audience going into this with any sort of positive expectation.
In 1982, young Brenner (Anthony Ippolito) and his friends competed in the Arcade World Championships. During the competition, it was announced NASA planned to send a time capsule to outer space and a videocassette from the competition would be included. More than thirty years later, extraterrestrials that received the package send weapons inspired by the 1980s arcade games to attack a U.S. military base in Guam under the false belief that the videocassette contains a declaration of war. It is now up to adult Brenner (Adam Sandler) and his pals (Kevin James, Josh Gad) to face the invaders’ challenges and save the planet from extraterrestrial domination.
The special and visual effects look cheap and ugly. The video game characters shown are always pixellated—with one most unnecessary exception toward the end—and so the action sequences are never convincing, always cartoonish. No tension is generated from the colorful pixels and so the elaborate set pieces end up looking like a bag full of garbage being blown up. Take note of the final battle in the U.S. capital. The visuals look like a made-for-TV movie with a severely limited budget. If I were to scrape the bottom of the barrel for a positive comment, the film is only very mildly entertaining because we cannot help but try to recognize the ‘80s references.
There is no character worth rooting for because they are all caricatures. I am sick of Sandler playing a slob of a man-child always winning the heart of a successful, beautiful woman (Michelle Monaghan). It appears as though he puts no effort while he is in front of the camera. He just shows up brain-dead because the check is already in the bank. Sandler and Monaghan share no chemistry or even an inkling of intrigue. To be blunt, every time the two are only a few inches apart, especially when they go for a kiss, my gut groaned in disgust.
The writers do not bother writing jokes that are even remotely funny. I probably would have been slightly entertained with some well-made and well-placed puns. But no, what we get is Gad doing his usual shrieking routine as if he were a banshee from hell. My ears felt assaulted. I felt my brain cells dying and going deaf by the second. That’s quite a feat. No one deserves such a punishment.
“Pixels,” shockingly directed by Chris Columbus, is a depressingly bad movie. I felt crippled by its inanities disguised as humor. At one point, I began to consider that perhaps it is confused with regards to its target audience. Further, the film lacks a range of laughs, interesting characters, an arc, and a creative script. Although its premise sounds like an entryway to some mindless but bona fide fun, ultimately it fails to deliver from its great potential.