Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was a video game prodigy. He memorized the patterns of the games, allowing him to rack up high scores. His friend Will Cooper (Kevin James), convinced him to go to the 1982 World Video Game Championships, where he faced off against Eddie “Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) in a fierce battle of Donkey Kong.
Fast forward about 30 years later. President Cooper, having become a laughing-stock, is facing an unprecedented situation. Aliens have misinterpreted a time capsule video of the 1982 video game championships. They view it as a challenge by the people of Earth and begin attacking in the form of the games they saw on the video.
Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) is tasked with creating technology to hopefully combat the aliens. She creates light guns, which should help the Navy SEAL team defeat them. President Cooper, realizing that only the best video gamers in the world can adequately train the SEALs, brings in Sam, Fire Blaster, and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), another video game prodigy, to help the SEALS prepare. With only one “life” left in the game, can the team of nerds and SEALs stop the invaders before it is game over?
Adam Sandler made some funny movies back in his prime. However, his movies have been very hit or miss lately. Jack and Jill was a dud. That’s My Boy was so bad, I turned it off about a half hour into it. Blended, on the other hand, wasn’t bad. With that in mind, I went into Pixels not expecting much.
Thankfully, Sandler redeems his recent failures with this latest film. Sure, the story is a bit out there. Aliens find a video time capsule, take it as a challenge, and are able to recreate all the characters in the games as their weapons? It’s a lot to chew on, but, somehow it works.
Surprisingly, the usual cast of Sandler’s buddies are missing. Sure, Kevin James is in the movie. As president, no less. They make him a joke of a president, with plenty of throw-backs to George W. Bush. At least that is realistic in terms of how James would be as a president. Sandler’s entire family gets to be in the film. So does Kevin James’ family. Even Martha Stewart and Serena Williams get cameos. Missing are Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider, and that whole crew. Thankfully, we get Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad to fill in. And they do so nicely.
As a child of the 80s, it was everyone’s dream to be able to play real life versions of the video games we played in the arcade. Sandler, along with director Chris Columbus, take that dream and make it a reality. Sandler, Josh Gad, and Peter Dinklage get to play a high-stakes, larger than life game, making the rest of us jealous. Sure, a lot of the jokes are easy. Some of the characters are completely unnecessary and obviously there for laughs or the cute factor. (I’m looking at you Q-Bert.) But, surprisingly, it works. My only real complaint is that it takes far too long for the action to get started. So long, in fact, that you almost start to lose interest in the movie before it has a chance. But once it gets going, it doesn’t stop.
Visually speaking, the film is much more than I would ever expect from the Happy Madison group. All of the video game characters are beautifully reproduced and fill the screen. The weapons Sam and his crew use are perfect for those of us growing up playing the video games that are threatening the planet.
Let’s be honest. This film isn’t going to be up for any awards. In fact, it won’t be taken seriously by anyone. And it shouldn’t be. Pixels is a fun, mindless bit of nostalgia that can be enjoyed by the entire family.