Let’s be honest about something. Adam Sandler has been cranking out bad movies for quite a few years. The only one recently I didn’t hate was Hotel Transylvania. And before Pixels hit theaters, it was getting horrible reviews from critics, sitting at 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. So I went into the theater expecting an absolute trainwreck.
Back in the 80s, a videotape of kids playing video games gets included in a message to outer space about our culture. An alien race received the message and thought it was a threat, so they show up to Earth and replicate these video game enemies and attack the planet. Our only hope is Brenner (Adam Sandler), a former arcade superstar. His best friend happens to be the President of the United States, played by Kevin James. They also have a third buddy played by Josh Gad. Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Jane Krakowski, Brian Cox, and Sean Bean all join the cast as well.
This movie isn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I was thinking it would be groan-worthy, full of crass jokes and poor performances. It’s not good but it’s not a disaster.
The concept is actually really fun and the execution of these pixelated aliens is really engaging and sometimes beautiful. Especially a Centipede game where the angry centipede charges into the streets and into people’s homes. It just looks really cool because we have never seen anything like this. And the effects when these creatures get destroyed is really great as well, as pixels fly across the screen. I was fascinated by the concept and the look but the story just doesn’t do much with its potential.
And since a majority of the movie is composed of these action scenes, I was entertained for most of it.
What doesn’t work?
The problem here isn’t Adam Sandler, or even Kevin James. In fact, I didn’t really have a problem with any of the talent. They did what they could but the story on the page was riddled with cliches, treated the only woman (Michelle Monaghan) like a trophy, and there were more plot holes than I could name. There was so much potential with an idea like this but it failed to execute.
What we end up getting is something that just doesn’t make sense. When you look critically at the story, it falls apart. The dialogue is cheesy and the fact that they expect us to believe that Kevin James’ character is the President of the United States shows how little the writers care. They get big name talent and miscast them in minor roles, such as a criminally underused Sean Bean.
The movie is also surprisingly boring in a few sections. When it’s not about big action scenes, there’s a forced romance subplot that was just downright boring. The movie felt too long, even though it was only an hour and a half.
And while I don’t blame the talent, the direction by Chris Columbus can be questioned. This is the guy who brought us Rent, Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Yet here, he manages to make Peter Dinklage annoying and irredeemable. I don’t get mad when Kevin James does something stupid because I know that Chris Columbus asked him to. That’s the frustrating part.
Don’t believe the hate train that is crushing this movie. It’s not good but I don’t think it’s deserving of all this hate. People are bandwagoning and it’s doing this movie a disservice. I chuckled often and I thought the effects for these pixel aliens were pretty fun and engaging to watch. Unfortunately the actual story makes no sense, the direction is questionable, and the movie overall fails to capitalize on a unique concept. I wouldn’t recommend seeing it but this movie isn’t the trainwreck people say it is.