Adam Sandler was a child prodigy gamer, but now all he does is install tech for people. However when the world starts being invaded by real life 80’s arcade games sent by an alien race, it turns out that Sandler could be the only person in the world that can save the day.
Now I expected to dislike this movie intensely for a number of reasons. Firstly I don’t like Adam Sandler in real life or in films, secondly I don’t rate Chris Columbus as a director, thirdly I have no interest in 80’s arcade games, fourthly it has garnered universal hatred (a score of 27 on metacritic at the time of writing) and fifthly I just really don’t like Adam Sandler at all. However despite all of this I was left surprised. I hated it even more than I thought I would. It’s catastrophically bad.
Not since Noah has a film had me so annoyed at its very existence, and like I did with Noah I’m going to do a top five things wrong with this movie.
5 An 80’s view of the world.
Just because your movie is a fan of the 80’s, it does not mean that you have to replicate the backwards world view that was present back then. Let’s look at the movie portrayal of POC. Only two ever appear on screen. The first is an Indian couple who do two things: they act as a punchline and then die horribly. There is also one black character who is the only other casualty shown on screen in the entire film. In fact the only people to ever get injured in the film are POC. (I know we should come to expect this kind of thing from Hollywood now but honestly I just want to tear this movie apart with everything I can get on it). And also its view of women. Michelle Monaghan one role is to be stuck up and then eventually fall in love with Adam Sandler.
Notice how I used quotation marks around the word characters to draw your attention to the fact that there are none. I have already mentioned Michelle Monaghan’s role and we’ll come back to Sandler so let’s look at the rest. If you can tell me who Josh Gad’s character is honestly I will give you money. He’s all over the place, sometimes being confident and shouting, sometimes being unconfident and shouting, sometimes being unconfident and not shouting, he doesn’t have any personality traits. Occasionally they try to fool you by giving him lines about conspiracy theories to supposedly flesh him out, but these lines bear no resemblance to things he has done prior in the movie. Peter Dinklage is usually brilliant but even he grossly underperforms here saying, his characteristics being apparently that he has a bit of a funny voice and a mullet. That’s it. Pixels is a film so devoid of good performances the stand out actor is Kevin James. Yep you heard me. Kevin James is about the only person who comes across as anything more than diabolical. In that he isn’t great, maybe a 2/10 performance.
3 It isn’t Funny.
Like at all. And this isn’t just a case of a film having such a shit premise it could never have been any good, even though I have no interest in 80’s arcade games whatsoever I still thought in the right hands this could have been a decent film. These are not the right hands. Columbus yet again shows us that his successful movies’ success had literally nothing to do with him and everything to do with the cast. Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire are not especially well directed movies, but they do contain brilliant central performances. Pixels does not. The laughs in these movies all come from the individual talents of the actors, so when you take that away you are left with Columbus trying his hand at comic timing, a skill which he does not possess at all. I actually think a few of the punchlines in Pixels could be chuckle worthy if they were delivered with any element of comic nuance at all. However I didn’t laugh at all through this film and for a comedy that is a real problem.
2 Adam Sandler.
He’s dreadful. I’ve never liked him, but even by his own rock bottom standards this a low point. I have never seen a performance that more closely resembled an actual corpse. My problem with Sandler is that he doesn’t ever seem to try. At least Kevin James gave it a go, Sandler performs the entire film like he’s asleep. If you pay for this movie you are literally giving money to Sandler for taking a nap. This level of laziness should not be acceptable from such a big star, and yet he’s done this since the late nineties. It’s this reason that I hate Sandler more than I hate anyone else in Hollywood. I do think that Kevin James is largely talentless but he gives it his all no matter how awful the film he’s in is. I think the world should just start a Sandler boycott (although looking at the box office figures for the Cobbler it would appear that this is already happening).
1 The theory that somehow the past is superior to the present.
Now, let me explain exactly what I mean by that. Take the exchanges that occur throughout the film between Sandler and Monaghan’s child. All of them revolve around Sandler belittling modern gaming because it’s somehow less intellectually demanding than 80’s gaming. And each time you expect the punchline to be that Sandler’s character is a moron because obviously Pac-man is not more intellectually demanding than Call of Duty. But it’s not the punchline, the punchline is actually “yeah you go Sandler, you tell these stupid kids what for”. And I just sat there flabbergasted at a film that actually believes a game in which you can figure out a pattern is somehow more challenging than one in which it is different every time. At one point Sandler even says something like “in my day we used to go out to the arcade with a group of friends and do a thing called socialising”, displaying that this film is so far behind in terms of technological advances it still thinks that to talk to someone you have to be next to them. This is a film with views that literally predate the telephone. This is a film that somehow believes that playing a single player game while your mate plays a different single player game is somehow more sociable than playing a multiplayer game because the two of you are physically closer together. And to be honest any film that displays such a blatant and laughable fundamental lack in understanding in anything vaguely technological has lost my interest. About ten minutes in, after the first Sandler conversation with this child I out loud said “fuck this movie” and stopped watching. I later resumed because I wanted to spew on this blog and to do that I had to have watched it. Also I watched this online because I disagree with giving money to Adam Sandler.
I hate this film. More than I have ever hated any other movie. The more I think about Pixels the more irritated I get. Please if you are going to watch this pirate it. Do not give Sandler any reason to make more films. Please.