Running time 1hr 46mins
ADAM Sandler gets a rough ride. His films, made under the banner of his Happy Madison production company, bring in a lot of money – but it’s a no-no to admit you like him. The creative force behind comedies including Little Nicky, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer, it’s clear his films aren’t made for the critics. At times, he’s dipped into more
serious fare – the trajectory of many a comedy actor – with credible projects such as Spanglish and Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed Punch-Drunk Love, and most recently (and to a certain extent), the dispiriting screen adaptation of Men, Women and Children. But he hasn’t let that distract him from his primary task of making mindless movies for the masses. It’s perhaps fair to say, however, that it’s had an impact on his funniness. Pixels is the latest in his company’s extensive hit and miss, love ’em or loathe ’em filmography.
Based around 80s video games – a theme that’s also provided inspiration for superior films Scott Pilgrim vs The World and the animated Wreck-It Ralph – Pixels is a silly story with fairly impressive computer-generated effects featuring Adam Sandler as Sam Brenner, a one-time world-class gamer who relinquishes his crown in an epic childhood Donkey Kong battle with cocky opponent Eddie ‘The Fire Blaster’ Plant (Peter Dinklage). He’s now all grown up and working for an electronics installation company, and his best friend Cooper (Kevin James) is now president of the United States. When aliens pick up video feeds of classic arcade games, they think that war is being waged and attack, modelling themselves on the characters from the games.
The president and his team – including childhood pal Brenner and military specialist Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) – decide to fight fire with fire, turning advanced gaming techniques on their alien foe to save the world.
With seen-it-all-before 80s references, lame jokes and unfunny scenarios, Pixels is far from the high-octane laugh-a-minute retrofest it sets out to be. Its main problem is that it’s tired and boring, despite a class cast that includes Peter Dinklage, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Jane Krakowski and Dan Aykroyd. Sandler fans will yearn for the days of his simpler comedies that relied on script, delivery and performance for their humour rather than an outlandish premise and over-used themes that obliterate everything else, while those that have never liked him will chalk it up as evidence of his ineptitude. Even seasoned director Chris Columbus (Mrs Doubtfire, Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) can’t save this.