The weirdest thing happened as the end credits on PIXELS played. There were no less than a dozen people that walked by me as they said to their companions, “That wasn’t really bad!” The companion usually acted in a supporting manner, by saying some variation of, “I know, Right?!?!”
This made me giggle. I have been tracking PIXELS for a long time. I had fun with the original short film, but never really imagined someone actually trying to make a feature out of it. But then Adam Sandler’s HAPPY MADISON and SONY decided… THIS IS GOLD COATED NOSTALGIA JUICE!
It is very well known, I love Nostalgia and I never see it as a terrible thing. That said, I had read the script to this – which was a fucking bore to read. Then Chris Columbus signed on and I just hoped that Chris could steer the film out of the Happy Madison Doomland.
Now – for the shock. PIXELS wasn’t really bad!
In fact, it is often times not only tolerable, but diverting too. In fact, Father Geek and I actually pretty much enjoyed it – and my father pretty much despises every movie Adam Sandler has ever made. And, “PIXELS would’ve been better without him!” was stated by my father. Then, I found myself doing something I’m not particularly adept at.
Defending Adam Sandler, even if every 10th time I say his name, I change it to Pauly Shore. And I think they were destined to play comedic brothers… and the trailers for the movie would cause my Dad to just flat out explode out into the lobby of the theater rather that see it.
Sandler is a broad comedian, most broad humor comedians drive my Dad crazy. Dad also dislikes Jerry Lewis and has very low tolerance for the THREE STOOGES. So I’ve always had a disconnect with my Dad, but… On Adam Sandler, we’ve pretty much had total agreement. (Though I love PUNCHDRUNK LOVE, WEDDING SINGER and come to enjoy THE WATERBOY) All that said, Sandler didn’t particularly bother me here. I’m pretty sure that’s because of the 1982 young Actor version of Sandler. Besides, Dan Aykroyd as the 1982 Video Game Championship MC, would’ve been killer fighting the aliens video game scumbags.
The 1982 Flashback sequence that kicks off the film was fun. It set up the future rivalry between Sandler & THE DINK! The audience was laughing – and the thought did hit me that I kind of wish this Chris Columbus PIXELS movie was set in 1982 – and these young actors had to fight the video game alien threat. Columbus’ finest gift is casting young actors.
The film cuts to the present day. Sandler’s Video Game World Champion past is behind him. He installs electronic equipment for a service called NERDS. It affects him a bit like Cameron from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH – (the poster will show up later) – when he was in the Pirate costume. One of Sandler’s gifts right now is the ability to make everyone around him seem great. When he leaves lunch with his best friend, NOW THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, his personal Chewie… and really, how bad is one’s life if your best friend was the President of the United States? Kevin James plays President Chewie. He seems to have the same competency as President as he had as a Mall Cop.
Thankfully, the film has a lot more going on than Kevin James and Adam Sandler. As I mentioned above, the film has Dan Aykroyd for a brief bit, that did put me in the right mood. The film starts to get better as it adds actors. The first big upswing in my feelings for the film came with Michelle Monaghan’s entrance as the divorced mother that Sandler’s Brenner is tasked with installing a whole new entertainment package because her husband left her and her son for an 18 year old Pilates instructor named Sinnamon.
Any and all movies can be greatly enhanced by casting Michelle Monaghan on screen. For most of Adam Sandler’s time – she’ll either be onscreen with him, or cut to for reaction shots. Apparently she’s a DARPA Super Scientist, we know this because she is in on Presidential Briefings, and she hand delivers the government ray guns. That said, Michelle Monaghan is handing out ray guns. It’s kinda cool if you think about it.
Then Brian Cox shows up as Admiral Porter. He’s the film’s asshole. Cox has always made a welcome asshole in film! He’s also one of those actors that is always great onscreen, even if he has painfully little to really do, but as always he nails it.
Next we get introduced to Josh Gad’s Ludlow. It’s at this point where I kinda have to feel this movie is based ever so slightly upon INDEPENDENCE DAY. Only ya know… with giant pixellated 80’s games trying to kill you instead of Aliens with vulnerable firewalls. Ok – so Josh Gad, by the time he enters the film, instantly enhances the enjoyment factor. Everything about his character for some reason made me giggle. It could have been that there was a part of me that was superimposing Olaf, the snowman from FROZEN throughout the movie. Can’t imagine why? Giggle.
The first actual mission was CENTIPEDE in London. That’s when Sean Bean’s character shows up to yell at the geeks. CENTIPEDE is the best sequence in the film. It is a damn shame that GALAGA was wasted as a one-sided attack. It could have been so much cooler. But CENTIPEDE is the first and best conceived fight sequence.
Now the reason the video game ARCADIANS are so successful is that the stupid aliens simply play out the same patterns from the games they saw played in that space launched video tape.
So here’s the thing. The brains that made this movie I believe get the inherent silliness of this concept. Most critics can’t seem to figure out who this movie is made for, but it is exceedingly evident to me. PIXELS is made for people that spent way too many quarters in the arcade, that enjoy exceedingly silly movies that make almost zero logical sense, filled with characters with all the depth & nuance of a silly episode of Scooby Doo. It’s about bright shiny things bumping into reality and destroying it.
At the same time, the movie is trying to show how sending our pop culture out into the universe could be radically misjudged by Alien cultures. To beings made of energy, seeing video games, where meat sacks are destroying things made of light & energy… that could be seen as a terribly cruel act – and then Earth gets taken apart. There’s a kernal of a STAR TREK plot here somewhere, but unfortunately nobody takes anything particularly serious here.
But then, if you want to see a movie starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James… where Peter Dinklage has been assigned to do a rip-roaring rip upon Billy Mitchell from KING OF KONG… The notion of a mulleted-Dink in the Lincoln Bedroom with his two amazing fantasies waiting him, still makes me giggle. Well… let’s just say, SERIOUS was never on the table here. Nor should it really be. For me, Dinklage just makes me laugh – it’s how baritone he made his voice, it’s the mullet… and his somehow cheating sunglasses… I’VE NO IDEA WHY THIS WOULD’VE WORKED, but fuck it, the Dink can do what he likes.
Evidently the film is way too broad, silly and inconsequential for most critics, but that doesn’t take away from an applauding, laughing general audience that I saw the film with. There was this whole class of teenage kids that were wearing a Digital Media shirt with the PIXELS Donkey Kong on the front. They left the movie high-fiving, then doing a group photo laughing in front of a PIXELS Standee.
PIXELS is silly by-the-numbers froth… There are many better movies out there right now, but the FX, the silly performances make this one of the most ludicrous & crazy Alien invasion flicks foisted upon society since the days of the Saucermen injecting a lethal doseage of alcohol into the veins of naughty drunk teenagers!
I know, Harry Knowles is a crazy person. But there is a truth about me. I have watched both GROWN UPS movies… HATED EVERY FRAME. But there are fun things to discuss after watching the movie… like… Holy Shit! MAX HEADROOM!!!! I have a long lasting love for Matt Frewer! And the idea that beings of pure energy would use the visage of the mighty ex-Presidential candidate in Washington D.C. to taunt Kevin James and Adam Sandler… it amused me.
Now I know it doesn’t seem likely to you that I went into this expecting to knee-jerk hate it like apparently everybody else… But I didn’t. This bit of silliness I could have fun with and goof with. It is very definitely a B-movie, but then I love a whole host of B-movies. B-movies used to be the filler that folks enjoyed and laughed at. Why so serious?
Now watch PIXELS, then afterwards, just imagine how Mulder & Scully would’ve handled the situation. Heh. That conversation alone will be worth sitting through this very basic and fun bit of entertainment.
I did see the film at the Regal Gateway in 3D. The foreground 3D elements were a whole lot of fun, but at least at this presentation there was ghosting in the background brightly lit elements. This was slightly annoying, but could have had something to do with either rushed post-3D, or maladjusted projection equipment. Just in case, on this picture, I’d recommend the 2D.