What's that, Hollywood?
You wanna make a movie about retro games which would include the likes of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong? I'm in! As long as you don't turn it into a dopey, half-assed Adam Sandler comedy or something! Hahaha.
Yes, just when you thought your memories of Jack and Jill were finally fading forever, Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison troupe are back in cinemas (minus Rob Schneider, mercifully). This time, Sandler plays the ex-best Donkey Kong player around who is called upon to help stop some hugely unconvincing alien invasion with the help of some old friends. We're told the reason the aliens have taken the shape of old video games is because we once sent out game footage into space but the film leaves so many plot-holes wide open that pretty much everything past the first minute mark will make little to no logical sense so you might as well give up on that front straight away. And if that wasn't enough nonsense to buy, we're then told the President of the United States is Kevin James.
I'll let that sink in.
I guess the idea of Kevin "Paul Blart" James as President could have been humorous had they played it for laughs like Robert Rodriguez did in Machete Kills when Charlie Sheen (under his real name Carlos Estevez) was cast in that role but Pixels seems to willingly ignore any joke potential throughout. The script is not only underwritten but also devoid of laughs which, I think you'll agree, is a pretty fatal flaw for a comedy. That's really the main thing that drags this movie down. That and the fact that Sandler seems to be mostly uninterested in anything going on in the movie. He's not really trying to be funny or even act. It's almost like someone else was given the part and pulled out at the last second leaving him to take over reluctantly.
The casting seems to range from people who clearly don't give a s*** to people who are obviously too good to be in this movie. In the latter category you'll find Dan Aykroyd, who pops up for a cameo appearance, the lovely, talented, miscast Michelle Monaghan, the ever-entertaining Sean Bean, good old Brian Cox and poor old Josh Gad, who genuinely tries his best to bring some laughs to the table. Gad really should be given better roles than this and The Wedding Ringer. Peter Dinklage is, of course, also much too good for this movie but he also qualifies for the "don't give a s***" category since his performance as Sandler's old mullet-wearing gaming foe is bizarre at best. Not really sure what he was going for there at all but feel free to venture any guesses.
Now to the good stuff: the action sequences, the special effects, the retro game characters and references are all admittedly pretty cool. The Pac-Man chase sequence is genuinely exciting, as is the all-out battle and Donkey Kong fight in the film's third act. Director Chris Columbus may have dropped the ball when picking a decent script to work with and getting the best out of a solid cast but he does manage to put together some fun action scenes in this movie. Could have done without the disturbing sight of Q*Bert pissing himself but, otherwise, it's definitely enjoyable to see the likes of Paperboy, Space Invaders, Mario and Centipede on the big screen.
All in all, though, you might want to give this one a miss and re-watch Wreck-It Ralph instead: while Pixels does have its likeable mindless moments, it's altogether a wasted opportunity with a sluggish lead, awful writing and uneven performances aplenty.