Review: Pixels (2015)

pixels12A | 1h 46min | Animation, Action, Comedy | 12 August 2015 (UK)
Director: Chris Columbus
Writers: Tim Herlihy (screenplay), Timothy Dowling (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan

Tonight I had a crack at the 2015 film, Pixels, starring Adam Sandler. I had intended to watch it at the cinema but when I saw it had an IMDB score of 5.7 I passed it up. I don’t always go by the IMDB score, especially not if it’s a film about any specific subjects I’m interested in, but due to its low score in combination with its young target audience and evident silliness, I postponed it until it had come out on DVD & Blu-ray.

I do like science fiction but it’s hard to take Pixels as true science fiction because it’s so far removed from reality, and so comedic. It’s more of a science fantasy comedy. I’ve seen many films starring Adam Sandler and am quite used to him, although, I’m of the opinion Happy Gilmore and Punch Drunk Love are the only genuinely good films he’s been in. The rest are too formulaic and he sort of mails his performances in. He has a bit of a knack for the kind of character he often plays and just seems to always wing it and believe he’s doing a good job. Sometimes he convinces others!

Anyway, Pixels is about an extra-terrestrial attack on Earth. Some sort of space capsule was shot out into space with some footage of old arcade video games and when an advanced extra-terrestrial civilization came upon it they were too stupid to figure out it was video games and took it for a declaration of war from Earth. As a result they send 3D pixelated real life versions of the video games to Earth and the only way to beat them is to win according to the games’ rules but with real human players in the real world instead of on an arcade machine. The aliens explain through a television broadcast that if the humans lose the Earth will be eradicated, or words to that effect.

Interestingly, and a bit annoyingly, you never see the aliens. Instead, they use old footage of celebrities, such as Madonna, to convey their messages. I don’t know how this was done but the mouths move in perfect sync with what they are saying.

The film seems like a bit of a send up of the way the world works. For example, the President happens to be a childhood friend of Adam Sandler’s character, Sam Brenner, who happens to be a child arcade video game prodigy. Of course, that comes in handy, because he can save the day by beating the aliens in the real world version of the video games. All of these elements are used to make what appeared to be a giant mockery of the US government and its military. The proper soldiers can of course do nothing against the pixelated Pac Man, etc., whereas Sandler’s Sam Brenner character has all the answers and is the hero. If only the world were like that.

There is minimal exploration of exo-politics in the dialogue, which is the politics of Earth’s relationship with other planets and their inhabitants, should there be any we have a chance at communicating with.

It has a number of cliched scenes of a romantic nature.One female character is chided for not being interested in Sandler’s character due to him being a home-theater installation man and presumably not particularly wealthy. Yet there is a huge amount of superficiality about the beautiful women in the film, with the male characters near-drooling over stereotypical female pin-up types. Quite a double standard on the part of the writers! A woman being interested only in a wealthy man and the male characters being only interested in beautiful women are equally superficial in my book and both deserve chiding. Either embrace and accept both sides or condemn them both, instead of attacking one and giving the other a free pass, as is done in Pixels.

Although there is action, it isn’t that well choreographed. The CGI is excellent but the actual sequences are quite rudimentary in comparison with more intricate ones like there are in films like Transformers, Fast & furious, and Star Wars.

All in all, not bad, but not great. Very light entertainment. I didn’t have to think too hard. Points for creativity, even though they didn’t elaborate much on their initial idea.

Reviewed by Alistair Martin


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