September 1, 2015
Because of terrible reviews that plagued "Pixels", I did not really plan to watch this movie at all. However, my kids all wanted to watch it, so I begrudgingly went with them. While watching the film though, it would turn out that I would have the best time of us all.
In the arcade game world championships of 1982, 13-year old Sam Brenner and his fellow nerdy friends Will Cooper and Ludlow Lamonsoff battled it out in various video games. A recording of this event was included in a time capsule launched into space.
Fast forward to the present day, Brenner is working as an installer of home theater systems. His close friend Cooper is now the President of the United States! One day, unknown forces from outer space invaded a military base in Guam, reducing the place into pixel cubes. When President Cooper noted that the alien attacked with a pattern reminiscent of the old arcade game Galaga, he called in his best friend Brenner for his video game expertise.
Adam Sandler plays a underachieving nerd yet again, as he had done in many of his previous films. His was such a generic performance as we had seen from him before -- a smart-alecky loser or slacker type who inexplicably still manages to hook up with the hottest ladies (Michelle Monaghan, in this case). Ultimately, even if Sandler was the lead character here, it was his co-stars who come up with more memorable performances.
Kevin James, with his perpetual good-guy vibe, plays a bumbling but very congenial American president. I thought this was a fun and witty bit of casting. James was able to pull off that balance of portraying foolishness with restraint to somehow maintain the dignity of his presidential role.
Josh Gad is another actor with a such a warm sense of goodwill about him. Even if his character Lamonsoff was this annoying conspiracy nut pathetically lovestruck with Lady Lisa of the video game Dojo Quest, Gad's face has such a goofy innocent charm that we cannot help but root his on.
Maybe Sandler was a fan of "Game of Thrones" because we see two noted actors from that HBO series in this film. Peter Dinklage played Brenner's nemesis Eddie Plant as sort of a spinoff from his role as Tyrion Lannister -- smart, sinister and sneaky ladies' man. It was good to see Ned Stark himself, Sean Bean, is a short hilarious role as a British soldier.
Classic arcade games like Centipede, Donkey Kong and Pacman (along with Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde) were very imaginatively conceptualized and depicted as larger-than-life games where human characters can interact within the playing field. I found those video clips of personalities from the '80s, notably Madonna and Daryl Hall, whom the aliens used to deliver their messages quite funny as well.
I do not really know what the serious movie critics were looking for when they panned this film with their harsh reviews. I thought "Pixels" delivered exactly what it aimed for. Yes it was shallow and silly, but that what it was supposed to be. It had me and my kids laughing out loud and yearning to play those classic video games again, so I think it totally worked. I disagree that there was any desecration done to these '80s icons.
Director Chris Columbus really has a magical way with working with childhood memories in his movies. He made this film very enjoyable and entertaining for all ages, especially those who grew up on arcade games. Of course, there a few awkward comic misfires here and there, as Adam Sandler films generally have. However, I think many children of the 1980s would welcome this opportunity to revisit the fun childhood we miss. 7/10.