Josh and Violet share their spoiler-free male vs. female perspective reviews of Pixels, directed by Christopher Columbus, and starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, and Michelle Monaghan!
Josh’s Movie Review of Pixels:
Oh, Adam Sandler, how I yearn for the good old days when you were comedy gold. Pixels unfortunately missed the mark, and that is an understatement. The apocalyptic arcade-themed comedy was directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, and the first two Harry Potters) and stars Adam Sandler (Brenner), Peter Dinklage (Eddie), and Josh Gad (Ludlow) as washed up arcade “legends” that must save the world from an invading alien species which has taken the form of various arcade games, such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Space Invaders. I had an emotional ride waiting for this movie to come out , as the announcement of the movie left me groaning, “Oh another terrible Adam Sandler movie?” to mild interest when the first trailer came out, to actually a bit excited when the second trailer came out. Then the Rotten Tomatoes reviews came out–low 20%. Great. Then I actually saw the movie. Two hours I wish I could have back. To cap this movie’s journey off, its opening weekend opened to a paltry $24 in the US. Not a great start for a movie with an $88 million dollar budget.
So, as to not go too far into the negatives, let us start with the positives. Firstly, the special effects were really well done. Seeing all of these arcade characters come to life was really entertaining to see. Seeing Pac-Man chomp up the streets, and Centipede swoop down from the skies, it was all really well done. In fact, most of the action of the movie was really well done. The two best scenes of the film were the Pac-Man car scene, and the Donkey Kong scene. Both of those were really well done.
I also have to give credit to the idea of the movie. In the right hands, this movie could have been amazing. Look at films like Wreck it Ralph or Toy Story. This could have been a great take on the video game movie crossovers. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be in Pixels.
Now it is time for the bad. The biggest problem with the movie? It wasn’t that funny. Putting Kevin James as the President of the United States was probably supposed to be a funny move, but it really was just weird. It did not fit Kevin James’ personality at all, and the comedic elements of him being the president just didn’t work. The weird romantic relation between Brenner (Sandler) and Violet (Michelle Monaghan) didn’t work either. Again, didn’t find it believable, nor funny. I guess what I am getting at, is that aside from a few laugh out loud moments, there wasn’t much humor to the movie.
The story, which seemed like a rip off of Independence Day meets Die Hard: With a Vengeance meets Atari, just didn’t work either. Why did these aliens take the form of video games? Why would they challenge the Earth to a few rounds of “invasions” to thwart, when they probably could have just overran them anyway? What were these aliens actually after? Why does the movie portray video “gamers” as guys who are either criminals or people with no lives? Again, a myriad of problems that I really am not sure were not addressed in the production of the movie.
Sadly, the movie was so bad, I really just don’t have a lot to say about it. The pacing was terrible. Scenes felt way too long, that didn’t really have bearing on the movie, and the aspects of the movie I liked–the battles with the video games–seemed too short. It is too bad this movie wasn’t in the hands of a talented director/production company.
It looks like Adam Sandler is at the end of his rope when it comes to terrible comedies. People seem to be waking up, and not fronting the money to see Sandler produce and star in these awful films. I don’t think he has had a good movie since Click that I can think of. Overall I would give the movie a 5 out of 10. The only saving grace for this movie is the two big video game scenes with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Without those, this movie would likely be sitting at a 3 or a 4.
Violet’s Movie Review
In case you don’t know the premise of Pixels, it is as follows: in 1982, NASA sent a time capsule out into space, which contained footage of video games. Unfortunately, aliens who saw the video game footage misinterpreted it as a declaration of war, so they “accept” Earth’s “challenge” and send down pixelated weapons and warriors that look and act like those classic video games and their characters to attack Earth.
The film begins back in 1982, with the younger version of Adam Sandler’s character, Sam Brenner, discovering that he’s a whiz at arcade games, and participating in the 1982 World Video Game Championships, accompanied by his friend Will Cooper (Kevin James’s character). There they meet and befriend Ludlow (Josh Gad’s character), and also meet Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage’s character), who is Sam’s biggest competition at the tournament.
We then fast forward to present day, where Sam now installs home theater systems, while Will is now the President of the United States, Ludlow is a conspiracy theorist, and Eddie is in prison. Sam is out on the job, where he meets his romantic interest, DARPA scientist Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten, played by Michelle Monaghan. While there, Sam gets a call from Will and heads over to the White House, where he watches some video of the alien attack on a military base in Guam, which he immediately recognizes as the 1982 version of the video game Galaga. Sam tries to convince the President’s staff about what’s going on, but they don’t believe him — that is, until another site is attacked.
Sam and Ludlow are assigned to help train a select group of Navy Seals how to fight against the video game attackers, but ultimately the two of them end up taking over, since they are the video game experts. Will also makes a deal to get Eddie Plant out of prison so that he can help fight as well. It seems like things are going in Earth’s favor, when something goes wrong, and all bets are off.
So the movie starts off well enough. The nostalgia of having to go to an arcade to play video games is prevalent. But it’s all downhill from there. Yes, the concept is really cool, and there’s actually more to it than an all out attack on Earth. Instead, it’s a “Best 2 out of 3” where the aliens send down a specific game for Earth to fight against for each battle. We then get to see those games in life sized action, and fate of the world aside, but you can’t help but think how cool it would be to be able to play those video games in real life, especially if these are games that you grew up playing as a kid. For the most part, the graphics, though pixelated, were actually quite good. There were also some pretty cool cameos.
But that’s about where the compliments end.
First off, I could not buy Kevin James as the President of the United States. There were no indications of his younger self that he had any such aspirations, and as his adult self, there are no indications about how he even could have become President, especially with how incompetent he is portrayed as being. Pretty much the only reason that his character was President was as a plot device so that Adam Sandler’s crew would have easy access to all these alien fighting weapons and actually be able to fight back.
Also, Adam Sandler and Michelle Monaghan had no on-screen chemistry. Yeah, it was pretty obvious as soon as you saw her that she would be his romantic interest, but there could have at least been some build up, rather than have him try to take advantage of her drunken, vulnerable state while sitting inside a closet with her after just having met her a few minutes earlier. As it was, they mostly just seemed like they hated each other, and not in a cutesy flirty way.
The humor was very hit and miss. Sometimes it seemed like they were trying to appeal to old school Adam Sandler fans, while other times it felt like they were trying to appeal to children. Sometimes it was just plain awkward, and seemed like they were trying to make something funny that had fallen flat, or something not very funny dragged on for too long. At one point, they even specifically “borrowed” a line from Happy Gilmore, with the words slightly changed, but using the same high pitched mimicking voice.
The movie didn’t even follow its own rules. For example, one particular video game character inexplicably is somehow not pixelated, while all other video game aspects are.
Basically, the only redeeming part of the movie was watching classic video games in live action.
Overall, Pixels wasn’t quite as horrible as I thought it would be, but it was still pretty bad.
My rating: 4.5/10