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Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: July 24, 2015


Movie Review - 'Pixels'

by Adam Pavlacka on July 24, 2015 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

As kids in the 1980s, Sam, Will, Ludlow and Eddie saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the video arcades. Now, they're going to have to do it for real when intergalactic aliens attack Earth after misinterpreting video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war.

Adam Sandler hasn't been on a winning streak lately. His last film, "The Cobbler," was a box office flop, and reviews of earlier films haven't been kind. "Pixels" represents a step up from Sandler's recent flicks, but it also isn't a must-see film. Rather, it is an interesting premise that offers a few laughs without really pushing boundaries or going anywhere particularly memorable. In short, it's a summer popcorn flick that's high on nostalgia and low on story.

Inspired by the short film of the same name, "Pixels" works off the premise that aliens mistook old footage of 1980s arcade games as combat simulations. They have arrived and are now challenging humans for the rights to Earth in a series of winner-takes-all battles. It's a premise that could work great as an action film, but director Chris Columbus never fully commits to it, instead mixing action and comedy with the result being something that doesn't really excel at either.

The comedy in "Pixels" is very hit-or-miss. When it hits, it's good; the audience in our review screening was generally laughing in unison. In between those hits, though, are some cringe-worthy moments, such as when Sandler's character, Sam Brenner, attempts to seduce a crying woman in her closet or when Josh Gad's geeky, conspiracy theorist character, Ludlow Lamonsoff, goes on a tirade in front of a military force he's supposed to be training.

It's like Columbus lost his ability to tell the difference between "funny" and "stupid" for this film, which is odd when you consider that this is the director who brought us "Goonies," "Home Alone" and "Night at the Museum."

All that said, there is one point in the movie that could be taken as straight-up offensive, especially given recent events regarding women in the video game industry. At the end of the film, the hot, sexy video game vixen is given to one of the heroes as a trophy. Whoever thought that was a good idea was completely tone-deaf.

Action sequences fare better, with a Centipede battle in London's Hyde Park and a Pac-Man race through downtown Manhattan both coming across as high points in the film. Watching both of these, you could get the sense that there was some decently choreographed action to be had, but the rest of it never really comes to fruition. Even the climactic battle at the end of the movie pales in comparison to those earlier fights.

With such uneven presentation, "Pixels" relies heavily on nostalgia to appeal to audiences. If you grew up in the 1980s, you're bound to recognize most of the video games as well as the various TV and music video clips used throughout. It's not an ideal pillar to support an entire film, but the nostalgia angle does manage to keep "Pixels" in watchable territory.

Visually, "Pixels" does a great job with the effects and bringing various older video game characters to life. Tetris blocks falling down to take out buildings, and Galaga bugs attacking a military base are but two of the recognizable characters. Honestly, the only one who really seems out of place is the pixelated Smurf. Talk about a random inclusion.

Despite the solid visual effects, there is no real benefit to 3-D here. If you do see "Pixels" in the theater, don't bother with the 3-D upcharge.

Ultimately, "Pixels" is the kind of film that requires you check your brain at the door. It's not necessarily worth rushing out to see on the big screen, but it'll be more than acceptable as a matinee showing or something to watch on a weekend afternoon when it inevitably hits Netflix.

Score: 6.0/10

"Pixels" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. It is showing in 2-D and 3-D.

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