CINEMA RELEASE: PIXELS
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Monaghan, Jane Krakowski, Ashley Benson, Sean Bean, Brian Cox, Dan Aykroyd
Classification: PG (Mild Themes, Violence, Coarse Language and Sexual References)
Review by Peter Gray
So one of the more positive things there is to be said about ‘Pixels’ is that it’s the best thing Adam Sandler has done in a great while. Sadly, aside from surprisingly dramatic turns in little-seen features like ‘Reign Over Me’ or ‘Men, Women & Children’, that isn’t much praise to be singing given his last feature films have included such “quality” as ‘Grown Ups’, ‘Jack & Jill’ and ‘That’s My Boy’, and, perhaps even more sad, is that this film contains sporadic moments of enjoyment that hint at the more enjoyable production this could have been.
Based on a clever little short-film from filmmaker Patrick Jean where classic 8-bit characters like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were re-imagined as Godzilla-like creatures of mass destruction, ‘Pixels’ was in no short supply of an interesting-enough storyline rife with cinematic potential. It’s easy to argue that the initial idea is ludicrous but larger, more successful films (and franchises) have been built on less, and with the inclusion of proven director Chris Columbus (‘Home Alone’, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’) here was a film that had a chance at survival. Then Sandler and his Happy Madison crew got a hold of Jean’s short and, well…you can guess the rest.
A juvenile one-liner from Sandler or one of the many failed attempts at comedy from Kevin James – cast here as the U.S. President of all things – continually remind us of the immature film we’re watching, even when we are occasionally drawn in by the proceedings. Those particular proceedings begin in 1982 where the arcade-game phenomenon first found prominence, and following a championship battle between 13-year-old Pac-Man maestro Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito) and his wily opponent Eddie Plant (Andrew Bambridge), NASA send a capsule into outer space containing video feeds of various gameplay. Unbeknownst to the world, an alien life force would interpret this capsule footage as a declaration of war, creating their own creatures off the design of the classic characters they viewed, and when they start a world war in the present day it naturally comes down to Sam (Sandler), Eddie (Peter Dinklage), Sam’s best friend William (James), and the conspiracy theory-obsessed Ludlow (Josh Gad) to put an end to their tyranny.
As Sandler sleepwalks through yet another role and James continues to push his shtick to the point of annoyance, ‘Pixels’ never rises above its childish mentality, which is a real shame when the CGI used to create the 8-bit monsters is particularly creative (the chase sequence involving Pac-Man belongs in a better film), the direction from Columbus is energetic enough, and the support from both Dinklage (who seriously livens up the film with his cocky demeanour) and the always enchanting Michelle Monaghan threaten to rectify the dire situation that is the film; Brian Cox and Sean Bean even pop up in amusing bit parts that allow the usually serious performers to send up their tough-guy personas.
I’ll admit I didn’t hold the greatest hope for ‘Pixels’ on entering the theatre and, against my better judgement, I giggled occasionally at the more high-brow material (if there is such a thing) that seemed to be provided solely by Dinklage, but a periodic laugh or two and an admittance that the effects were impressive aren’t enough to forgive yet another lame script from the Sandler factory line.
My rating: 2/5