I wasn’t really looking forward to going to see Pixels. I had read and heard lots of reviews that were slating the film and I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated to go and watch it. But, as it was on its final few days in the cinema, I thought I may as well go for the sake of film journalism.
Pixels stars Adam Sandler, John Gad, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage and Michelle Monaghan and is directed by Chris Columbus. After aliens misinterpret a collection of 80s video games in a NASA probe as a declaration of war, it’s up to veteran gamer Sam (Sandler) and his friends to save the world.
The acting (if I can even call it that) is all over the shop. Adam Sandler as usual is just playing himself, an overgrown man-child who never knows when to shut his mouth. According to several people in the film he’s meant to be a super-smart guy who invented gadgets at university but the way Sandler saunters around the screen, it conveys the exact opposite. Josh Gad is alright as the more socially awkward gamer Ludlow, always clutching at Sandler’s sleeve for support, but it quickly turns into him screaming at an insanely high pitch. Peter Dinklage is wasted in the film, I feel a little bit sorry that he had to perform some of the worst lines ever committed to paper (and then don’t feel sorry because he probably only did it for the money).
The script is the main problem with the film. The story has thousands of plot holes and doesn’t have any coherence in its tone or logic. For instance, Kevin James, who plays the President of the United States (because that’s totally not self-aggrandising) in the beginning says that his wife hates him, but throughout the film they are seen to be smiling and having fun together. It’s as if the two screenwriters, Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling wrote the script over a lazy weekend and then never revised it, just giving it straight to the actors on the first day.
The jokes are the same childish attempt of humour that were in Grown-Ups (1 and 2) and can be seen coming from a mile off. Many jokes are made at the expense of the three gamers, most of which are based around the tired, outdated stereotype that all gamers are basement-dwellers that still live with their parents. For a film that is trying to fly the flag for video games, Pixels instead just demeans the audience that it’s trying to pander to. the film also is laden with homophobic and racist jokes, with an entire sequence where Josh Gad is screaming at a platoon of Navy SEALs, using homophobic slurs to try and pump them up so they can take on the alien video game characters.
Although, these jokes are nothing compared to how the film depicts women. The film obviously doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test (although that’s not a mark of quality), since all the women are either crying in the closet while drinking wine, demonised by their husbands or are a literal trophy, given to the gamers after beating the aliens at Donkey Kong. It’s cringe-worthy to see a film in 2015 that still treats women as the tropes of the damsel in distress or as objects that are given in exchange for good work.
While there were a few lines that I smiled at, such as when Professor Toru Iwatani, creator of Pac-Man appears and tries to appeal to the alien version of Pac-Man. It’s a really nice scene, but it’s swiftly ruined by a crass bout of profanity when Pac-Man bites his creator’s hand off. This was my favourite scene of the film, until I started reading up on the film for this review, when it was revealed that it wasn’t the real Professor Iwatani, and instead just an actor. Knowing that it isn’t the actual creator having a sweet moment with his creation, the scene is robbed of all the impact that it managed to have.
To be honest, Pixels isn’t Adam Sandler’s worst film. But with its uninvolving action sequences, lame jokes and it somehow seeming to drag on forever (despite being only 106 minutes), Pixels is one of the dullest of the year.
Score: 2/10 It will bring you to tears by how boring it is.