This is a movie about a bunch of 8-bit aliens trying to take over the planet. Knowing that, if you go in expecting verisimilitude or a flawless plot, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Which would be a pity, because on the whole, Pixels is anything but a disappointing film. It delivers on the laughs, the madness and the technicolor graphics it promises.
The film starts somewhere in the 80s when Sam Brenner (who grows up to be Adam Sandler) and his best friend Cooper are fanatic arcade gamers. Brenner is so good that he actually goes on to compete in the 1982 World Championship for arcade games- the tapes of which are going to be sent into space to educate any intelligent life out there about our (read ‘American’) culture. Well, “catastatrophically” for Brenner, he loses to the self-christened Fireblaster (Peter Dinklage) in the final game- Donkey Kong – a failure which follows him everywhere for the rest of his life. So poor Brenner, who had all the markings of nerdy success according to loyal friend Cooper, grows up to be an installation guy for an electronics store, while Cooper (adult version played by Kevin James) grows up to be, wait for it… the President of the United States! This should give you a rough idea of the kind of absurdity this film is going to throw at you.
So back in present-day USA, the aliens have found the video, and interpreted it as a declaration of hostility. In response, they decide to send down monsters shaped like our beloved video game characters (how twisted is that?) that will pixelate and destroy our civilization. And of course, who does the President call upon to save us in this desperate hour but his old gaming buddies. Though not without some fairly vocal and humorous protests from his Security Council.
As Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad proceed to save the world from annihilation, you can sit back and enjoy the one-liners, topical wit, insane situations (the President cannot read!) and often delightful 3D graphics. Pac-Man is cute, the Donkey Kong bit is larger-than-life, and Q*bert is adorable! For much of the second half, the screen is sprinkled with a host of arcade video game characters, and for those who’ve actually played these games, this part is a trippy trip down memory lane.
Other than a cast filled with comedy’s A-list, Pixels has a whole bunch of guest appearances, the most notable of which are Toru Iwatani (the creator of Pac-Man himself), Serena Williams and Martha Stewart (don’t ask)! Director Chris Columbus has taken Patrick Jean’s clever but quaint short film and given it scale that only a studio budget can provide. And what a smashing job he’s done of it! Pixels is one of those rare films which has something for the adults- nostalgia, humour- and a lot for the kids- cute, colourful 3D characters. It may not be troubled by logic or game-changing performances(!), but it’s a fun way to spend two hours.
Why you should watch this film:
Because you had a rough week and you could use a few laughs. Because you used to play Pac-Man as a kid. Because you love Adam Sandler’s deadpan comedy. Because you know you’ll leave the theater with a smile on your face.