In 2010, French animator Patrick Jean created a brilliant two-minute film called “Pixels”. In 2015 Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions killed it.
To be honest, I had high hopes going in (despite Sandler’s participation not only as producer but star, too), but it didn’t take long for those hopes to be dashed. With dialogue as clunky as a three-wheeled shopping cart and comedy at the level of knock-knock jokes, the low points of Pixels (and there are many) far outweigh the fun visual effects and 80s-tastic nostalgia.
In the original short, video game-inspired alien life, in the form of Donkey Kong, Galaga, and Tetris, invades Earth causing mass destruction. In the movie, Kevin James is U.S. President Will Cooper (a plot point even more ludicrous than Mark Cuban’s Presidential turn in SyFy’s recent Sharknado 3), and Adam Sandler is Sam Brenner, his longtime friend– a former video game champ-turned tech installer. When the alien armies invade, the two team up with their conspiracy theorist buddy Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Sam’s arcade nemesis Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) to save the world.
To be fair, I don’t blame Sandler entirely for the disaster that is Pixels. And director Chris Columbus (sitting in the chair for the first time since 2010’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) isn’t so much to blame either; the action sequences when the gang battle Pac-Man, Centipede, and Donkey Kong are fun (especially in 3D). No, the real problem is whenever anyone opens their mouth to recite lines from the god-awful screenplay by Tim Herlihy (Grown Ups 2).
Here’s a scene: Brenner meets Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) while installing her new TV. With the job done, he drives away, only to notice her pull up next to him at a stop light. Convinced she’s stalking him, he mutters to himself, “Wow, zero-to-psycho in 3.4 seconds– a new world record.” That’s the level of comedy we’re talking about. And it only gets worse from there, particularly for Monaghan. How she keeps a straight face while having a heart-to-heart chat with Q*Bert is mind-boggling.
I could go on, but frankly, Pixels isn’t worth the trouble. It’s easily one of the most disappointing movies of the year. Sure, it arrives with a all the promise of a fresh roll of quarters in an arcade, but it doesn’t take long to go through it’s lives. Game Over.