The biggest laugh in Pixels comes ten minutes into the film, when you realise that Kevin James is playing the President of the United States. The fact that I’m supposed to believe that the actor I last saw fighting an ostrich in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 as the leader of the most powerful country in the world, would be borderline offensive if the very notion wasn’t the most laughable thing about the film itself.
Based on a two minute short from writer and director Patrick Jean, Pixels is a high concept idea that sees earth come under attack from alien lifeforms disguised as 80’s arcade video-games.
Dragged out to a feature length story, it’s up to a team of nerds called the arcaders to bring down their extraterrestrial attackers, by taking part in a series of battles against familiar characters such Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.
It’s a sturdy idea with a flimsy script, drawing influences from Wreck-It Ralph and Ghostbusters, but barely scratching the surface of either’s quality. Whilst Wreck-It Ralph has all the heart and Ghostbusters has all the jokes, Pixels is lacking in both areas – although not through a lack of trying.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t chuckle once or twice, although the line between laughing ‘at’ and ‘with’ the film quickly became blurred. It’s certainly not without its moments and the set pieces are great – it’s just everything else that’s the problem.
Josh Gad excluded – he seems to be the only one making an effort – the cast look depressed and bored. Adam Sandler looks somewhere between sleep and death behind the glazed expression he wears throughout, and Peter Dinklage’s accent is undistinguishable.
When we spend time with these characters away from the video-game fun, Pixels begins to drag and starts to feel torn between an Amblin-like, fun adventure and the usual dumbed down Adam Sandler comedy, complete with all his regular friends, or rather culprits. Whilst it’s the former that I wanted, it’s the latter which, unfortunately, wins out.
I can’t help but wonder what the it would have been like without the involvement of Sandler and his Happy Madison production company, but for all of its potential, Pixels feels like a squandered opportunity. Nostalgia may be a silver lining for people who grew up during the 80’s, but even that isn’t enough to salvage this mess. Go watch Wreck-It Ralph again instead or failing that, go watch the original short which achieves so much more in two minutes.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com