Let’s just cut to the chase here; as you can tell from that headline, Pixels is bad. But it reaches a level of incompetence that even past Adam Sandler catastrophes like Jack & Jill could only dream of. This is a film where the acting of its leading man (the incomparable Adam Sandler) is somehow one of its lesser problems. From the get-go of the feature, which depicts a younger version of the character played by Kevin James stealing money from a little girl, the movies puzzling lack of awareness of its own characters blatant flaws is apparent.
After that flashback, we cut to the modern day world where James is now the President of The United States and his best pal Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), the protagonist of the picture, is now a fellow who installs pieces of technology into peoples homes. One of his first scenes in this story involves him attempting to kiss Violet (Michelle Monaghan) and being rejected by her. She is then dubbed by Sam to be “snobby” and depicted in an antagonistic light by the film. As you might imagine, a romance blossoms between the duo that’s about as organic as a Big Mac.
OK, so that sequence manages to simultaneously depict the movies clueless attitude towards its deeply troubled main character and how the film rampantly treats women in a negative light. Believe it or not, there is something resembling a plot within all of that; aliens are attacking our planet with video game characters like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Due to Sams massive video game experience, he, along with fellow video game aficionados Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Eddie (Peter Dinklage) are recruited by the POTUS to stop the aliens and save the planet.
Trying to root for Sam after his egregious opening scenes is tough enough, but as the film goes on, not only does Sandlers character (and the other supporting members of the supporting cast) remain unengaging. but the script by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling shows an inability to execute jokes on any level. There’s a recurring “gag” involving Ludlow constantly displaying overtly affectionate attitudes towards other guys, as he smacks various soldiers on the ass and then attempts to kiss Sam on the lips during the films climax.
I’m sure this won’t shock you, but a movie whose idea of comedy is “Man touching another mans butt” doesn’t fire on all cylinders in terms of humor. To boot, there’s also the screenplays weird inability to create any sort of character arc; Eddie, for instance, starts out the story as a liar and a schemer and ends the story as such. Sam is static, Ludlow just sort of fades into the background except for the occasional gag where he needs to shout and a general played by Brian Cox solely exists to provide conflict for the video game experts early on in the film. The fact that he just vanishes from the proceedings is a perfect indicator of the sort slipshod writing Pixels is an expert in.
Not helping matters is how confused Pixels seems to be in terms of who its aimed at. It seems like a movie that would appeal to kids in the ads and all the trailers I got on my screening were for family features. But what kids film has Bud Light product placement, a truncated F-word and a climactic scene where Peter Dinklage is awarded a threeway with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart? Squeezed in between all that sort of adult skewing content is a “comedic” sidekick that I guess is supposed to be some sort of source of humor for the children in the audience. That humor comes in the form of Q- Bert, who speaks with an eardrum splitting high-pitched voice that manages to deliver both exposition and urine gags. By the by, Q-Bert is a victim of a peculiar case in this movie wherein all the video game characters don’t have any personality whatsoever. The likes of notable video game characters like Frogger become just more CGI to fight instead of something actually distinctive.
I really don’t know what age group Pixels was meant for. I don’t know what the people in charge of this movie have against women that made them create a scene in Pixels where Ludlow gets a buxom supermodel-esque woman as a “trophy”. I don’t know why there’s a shot (played 100% straight) in this film where Kevin James stands heroically in front of a waving American flag. All of these inquiries stem from a motion picture that’s ineptly written, sexist and wastes a large number of good actors. I’d rather endure the loading times of Spyro: Enter The Dragonfly four hundred times over than have to rewatch even a frame of footage from Pixels.