This week I managed to see the Adam Sandler movie Pixels. I was mildly interested in the premise when I first saw the trailers, but not enough to bother seeing it in the theater. It received terrible reviews, and garners only 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. After seeing it I can say those poor reviews are fair, but you might want to see the movie anyway. Just know what you’re in for.
The premise of the film is interesting. An alien race views some video from a video game championship and takes it as a challenge to fight. They give the Earth three lives, and if the Earth loses all three the planet will be destroyed. What’s interesting is how the aliens decide to attack, they re-create video games.
But it’s not a good movie. Adam Sandler plays his usual “guy with potential who can’t get out of his own way” character. He’s likable, and has friends both far above and far below his station in life. It’s an Adam Sandler movie, that’s what an Adam Sandler movie is. There were a couple of moments where I found myself laughing unexpectedly at the humor, the first introduction of the President is one such moment as it reveals a lot about our culture. I chuckled some. For the most part, however, the cast is wasted. The problem is, we’ve “been there, done that” so many times for us not to see the next joke from a mile away. Most of the jokes feel tired1, and some of the story’s best moments make up the bulk of the trailer. This is never a good sign.
So why might you want to see this movie anyway? Nostalgia. Heck, even the retro-nostalgia felt by my kids is enough to make viewing this film worth while. If you have ever spent time in an arcade, or think you should have grown up in a time when arcades existed, Pixels is a movie to watch. Why? Because we finally get to see what it would have been like if the games we grew up playing existed in real life2. I have always wondered what the first Donkey Kong level would look like in real life, Pixels shows me that – and they did a great job. Bringing those games to life might be the only part of the movie Pixels does really well, but it’s enough to be mildly fun3. If you can see it for cheap, watch it for the graphics.
- Even with that there is still an odd-ball charm to Sandler’s presentation. The line, “You did terrible” was particularly good. It’s just old. ↩
- Wreck-it-Ralph and Tron touch on this same notion, but not in the same way. In those, significantly superior, films we see the games from their perspective. In Pixels we see them from ours. ↩
- Emphasis on mild. ↩