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30 Jul 2015

Abort, Retry, Fail? 'Pixels' Is Done in by Adam Sandler, General Lameness

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A scene from Pixels. A scene from Pixels.

Vintage video games come to the forefront in Pixels, a feature movie starring Adam Sandler that is based on a quirky little short film by Patrick Jean.

The fact that the short film is a lot cooler than the feature film reveals that perhaps the concept works better in a smaller dose—and that getting Adam Sandler involved was, and usually is, a terrible idea.

Sandler, in mopey-dog wiseass mode, plays Brenner, an installer of home-video equipment and the best friend to Cooper (Kevin James), the president of the United States. Brenner is a former video-game whiz kid who lost a world championship to Eddie (Peter Dinklage) when he failed to come through during a round of Donkey Kong. That loss sent him into some sort of spiral that ruined his life, while fellow gamer Cooper went on to be the leader of the free world.

While Brenner is out making the rounds and trying to score with Violet (Michelle Monaghan), a customer going through marital turmoil, Guam is attacked by the 1980s video game Galaga.

It turns out that aliens found a videotape of old games that was shot into space in the early ’80s—and they interpreted it as a declaration of war on their planet. So they are sending old-timey video games to wipe us out, and using dubbed footage of ’80s icons like Daryl Hall, Ronald Reagan and Madonna as messengers.

It’s fairly interesting at first, but this is an Adam Sandler project, after all, and he and his cohorts wind up wearing out their welcome after the first half. The film goes from mildly entertaining to total Stinksville as it wears on, thanks to the Sandler shtick and some tepid, shallow writing.

As for the special effects, we are talking about Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong here, so massive, awe-inspiring special effects are not in order. Should you choose to spring for the 3-D version, you will find yourself wholly disappointed.

Surprisingly, even though Sandler is nothing to get excited about, the worst performer in Pixels is the normally reliable Peter Dinklage. He mugs so much in this movie that you could drink a cup of coffee out of his head. Also making an ass of himself is Josh Gad as Ludlow, the strange conspiracy-theorist friend who is around because he’s overweight and kooky.

The film is directed by Chris Columbus, who directed the first, shitty Harry Potter movie (and the second much-better one) along with the awful Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone. Even though he’s responsible for some lousy movies, he did debut with Adventures in Babysitting, and that movie ruled. Thus, I can only partially hate him.

The once-mighty Sandler has hit so many cinematic potholes that his suspension is totally shot, and his tires are trashed. He’s got a deal with Netflix to produce and star in films, including the upcoming, already-controversial Western spoof The Ridiculous 6. Hollywood is finally losing faith in him.

It’s sad to see Monaghan, so good in films like Source Code and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, hitting a point in her career in which she has to play a Sandler love interest. In fact, it’s utterly heartbreaking. It’s perhaps the film’s greatest feat that Monaghan makes her character’s leanings toward Sandler semi-convincing. That’s some heavy-duty acting, for sure.

If you are looking for some summer movie fun, go see Ant-Man, Trainwreck or Inside Out. Pixels is a total letdown.

Pixels is playing at theaters across the valley.

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