When it comes to Adam Sandler films, what you see is what you get. A straight forward premise, some silly jokes and physical comedy, all injected with a healthy dose of enthusiasm. Pixels unfortunately misses the mark on almost all levels. Familiar plotting and lazy comedy aside, Pixels at least gets some props for its heavy 80s video game nostalgia. With the same comedic band of misfits rejoining another Adam Sander film and a distinct lack of rhythm and fun, Pixels is as hollow and lifeless as Pacman’s pixelated eyes.
After showing a Pacman competition in the 80s, the film thrusts forward to present day where aliens have mis-interpreted video feeds of classic arcade games to mean a war on their species. Using the games themselves as a visual disguise as they attack Earth, President Will Cooper (Kevin James) can think of no-one better to phone than childhood video game champion Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler). With him taking the reigns, he leads a team of old school arcaders (Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage) to launch an assault against the aliens and save Earth. With most comedies the story is usually unrealistically ludicrous but the peppering of humour helps to alleviate any seriousness. Pixels lacks the comedy needed for a picture like this with a haphazard script and most of the cast are horribly miscast. At around an hour and 45 minutes, this is a long film to sit through and for most of it, it lacks inspiration, driven forward by the 80s nostalgia from the video games themselves that wears thin long before the end of this picture.
Pixels is simply another Happy Madison picture with the cast dressed up in new costumes and a sprinkling of CGI. The jokes dont hit and for most of the film, the characters wander from one CGI-driven set piece to the next and crack jokes as they do. There’s perhaps one or two good bursts of humour and Peter Dinklage does his best to try and inject some much needed enthusiasm into the picture but aside from him, there just isn’t that much to take from this one.
Overall then, Pixels is a big misfire on almost all levels. The CGI is pretty good and the 80s nostalgia is a nice touch but it wears thin quickly. The familiar cast do the picture no justice and Sander looks like a man void of enthusiasm, lacking the bounce and physical humour needed to carry this film. A lot of the jokes don’t hit and as the film reaches its climax, it all feels overlong and bloated. Its a shame because with a better script, casting and a lot better jokes, Pixels could have been a good Summer comedy. Instead, this effort is a largely forgettable, highly disappointing return for Sander and his buddies.