Kevin James plays Cooper in “Pixels.” Cooper is the President of the United States but he has been a more or less a bumbler in office. He has to step up his performance, though, when he finds out that aliens are attacking the Earth using 80s arcade video games.
After learning that the military is ineffective against the invaders, Cooper decides to turn to friends and rivals from his childhood that were fantastic at video games to fight off the threat.
“Pixels” has a video game theme, but it’s not a movie about, centering on, or even really embracing video games or the culture that the medium has created over the decades. At the end of the day, this movie boils down to simply being another Sandler comedy.
The filmmakers could have easily replaced video games with any thing else that plays on referencing nostalgia. It could have been a movie about Sandler and company fighting 80s action heroes, referencing movies like “Rambo,” or James and the crew taking on 80s horror villains by reminding audiences of “Friday the 13th.”
Unlike solid films such as “Kick-ass,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” which poked fun at, but at the same time embraced things and genres such as comic books, video games and zombie and cop movies, “Pixels” takes the lazy way out. The film just uses the same old Sandler prat falls and other similar jokes while also saying, “hey, remember ‘Pacman?’ Hey remember ‘Donkey Kong?'”
The best way to show how much this movie missed the mark on the whole video game aspect is in the characters and the humor they try to deliver.
The main character Brenner (Sandler) was one of the best gamers, and in the present day is working at a dead end job that he hates. Peter Dinklage’s character was another great gamer, but in the present day he’s in prison. Then there’s Josh Gad’s character, another person who loved video games, in the present day he is an unemployed conspiracy theorist.
Basically, the film’s biggest joke is that geeks and nerds don’t have much of a place in the world except when their arcade knowledge can be somewhat helpful. It doesn’t embrace the culture or the medium itself, it makes fun of it.
That’s not where the movie’s flaws end, though. It also treats its women characters terrible, too. Michelle Monaghan plays Violet, a military colonel who has to work with the gamers to beat the bad guys. But wait, she can’t just be a strong woman in a major position, she also has to be a now-single mother following a divorce and a love interest for Sandler’s character. That’s not even the worst of it, though. The worst is Josh Gad’s character literally getting a girlfriend referred to in the dialogue as a trophy.
So was there anything good about the movie? Well, it’s definitely clear that Dinklage is a true professional as he puts a ton of effort into this and he was so convincing at his character that some of the performance was funny. A few jokes here and there worked, too.
There’s not much else that really saves this, though. The acting from the rest of the cast is phoned in and it simply doesn’t play off the video game aspects that it could have. “Pixels” relies too much on the old Sandler humor which has worn out its welcome. 1 out of 5.