I was thinking…
…how ironic it is we have only recently reached a point with computer-generated special effects that we can effectively render characters from 8-bit video games in a realistic three dimensional format and yet make them look like they’re still 8-bit.
Is this reflective of a generation so unhappy or so disillusioned with the present that we utilize some of the most advanced technology in order to relive a simpler time during which such technology was not present? Or is it simply Adam Sandler looking back to a time when he was more relevant in the entertainment arena?
Pixels, comedian Adam Sandler’s (The Cobbler, Grown Ups) latest venture, centers around four former arcade game whiz kids–Brenner, Cooper, Ludlow and Eddie–whose 15 minutes of fame ran out in 1982 and who have all fallen into the depressingly bleak reality of the 21st century. All except one. For some reason, Cooper, (Kevin James–Grown Ups, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), is actually President of the United States Cooper.
Anyway, in 1982, Sandler’s character Brenner, Cooper and their newly found friend Ludlow (Josh Gad–Wedding Ringer) compete in an international video game competition–an event which is taped and sent into space to potentially show alien races just how earthlings waste their lives.
Oh yeah, the trio also meets the world champion player, Eddie “The Fireblaster” (Peter Dinklage—Game of Thrones, X-Men: Days of Future Past). But Brenner ends up losing to him in a head-to-head championship round and, apparently, it’s all downhill for him from there.
Fast forward to the present. Brenner is a divorced, Geek Squad-like employee who spends his spare time hanging out at the White House with his friend, President Cooper. Far-fetched enough for ya?
Well, how about if I told you the space capsule containing the 1982 arcade game championship was misinterpreted by an alien species as a declaration of war and they end up sending giant real-life representations of 8-bit arcade characters to earth in a first-to-three-wins battle for world domination?
No? Still swallowing it?
Okay. How about Brenner woos a recently divorced, attractive, single mother ten years his junior, who also happens to be a lieutenant colonel that works for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency?
Now I lost ya, right?
Well, after an air force base in Guam is hit by the attacking aliens, Brenner, with some help from Ludlow, figures out what it is they are facing and they inform the president’s cabinet. With incredulous speed, the DARPA scientists develop weapons to combat the aliens.
Naturally, the highly trained SEALS sent to combat the next wave of aliens are not up to the task and Brenner and Ludlow take over. Shortly after that, they arrange for Brenner’s rival, The Fireblaster, to join the fight against the space invaders.
Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
The ridiculous premise aside and the ludicrous sub-premises also looked over, there are a good number of laughs throughout this film. More so, I would say, than have been present in several of Sandler’s latest films. (I’m looking at you, Top Five, Grown Ups 2, Jack and Jill and more.) Some of the funniest moments entail the doctored 1980’s television footage, which the aliens use to communicate their threats. President Reagan, Madonna, Hall and Oates and even Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” lady become spokespeople for the malevolent marauders.
Those of us who remember the 80’s with fondness will enjoy many of these in-jokes, which are clearly aimed at the adults in the audience but which will sail clear over the heads of those born after the advent of compact discs.
The aforementioned graphics are also magnificently done, with the nocturnal attacks of the glowing, brightly-colored arcade monsters being the most enjoyable to watch.
Furthermore, the musical score, composed by Henry Jackman (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: First Class, Wreck-It Ralph), boosts the film into a realm it would never enter with weaker musical accompaniment. Jackman’s style is reminiscent of Alan Silvestri’s earlier work, while still remaining a separate aural entity all its own.
It is understandable why Pixels’ action sequences are a little on the geriatric side. And the Sandler-esque humor can sometimes enter the banal and repetitively puerile. But after all, is there really a reason to listen for clever bon mots or pithy wisdom from a movie where Pac-Man bites off the hand of his creator? I don’t think so.
Enter the film with low expectations and you won’t be disappointed. Enter expecting something as bad as Sandler’s Funny People, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Sit back and enjoy Pixels for what it is: mindless entertainment.
Ammo Dump rating: 5 out of 10 Donkey Kong barrels
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my (every once in a while) radio show. Listen in on Fridays on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray to find out when I’ll be on the air.or the “iHeartRadio” app on your smart phone. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter:
Run time: 105 minutes