There has been a lot of talk about the two big budget bombs this summer. The first was the Adam Sandler movie Pixels and the second was the Fox superhero movie The Fantastic Four. Pixels made its money back thanks to international box office, but critics ravaged it, many hating everything about it. That is where the idea for this Renegade Review came from. I want to look at Pixels from a different point of view.
People, and especially critics, have been trained to automatically hate Adam Sandler movies, regardless of the film itself. While there have been truly abysmal films, such as Jack and Jill, I don’t really feel that Pixels deserves the hatred that so many people have thrown at it. Yes, I do understand the people who hate it (both the anti-Sandler crowd and the video game fans who feel their beloved properties were wasted here).
However, Pixels was not made for these people. I took my six-year-old son Ash to see it at the press screening and he absolutely loved it. Sitting next to a kid who had not developed the pessimism of my older film loving friends, and who doesn’t hate movies because he hates a specific actor, made this a different experience. He was so happy watching the movie, with the aliens taking the form of cartoonish video game characters, that it rubbed off on me. It is a different experience to watch a movie with someone who doesn’t hate something before seeing it.
Pixels was not made for film critics.
The film starts out with Brenner as a young kid who discovers video games and realizes that he is really good at spotting patterns and winning the games. He then signs up for a world video game competition thanks to the encouragement of his friend Cooper and makes it to the finals where he loses to Eddie in a game of Donkey Kong. The video game competition then launches a time capsule into outer space with video games in it.
On a side note, it was really cool seeing real life UFO enthusiast Dan Aykroyd as the head of the video game competition who was so excited about aliens possibly finding the time capsule.
Cut to the present day where Brenner (Adam Sandler) is now a Geek Squad type employee who installs electronics for people in their homes. Cooper (Kevin James) is now the President of the United States, and while a lot of critics have blasted the idea that Cooper being president was unrealistic, George W. Bush was president, so it isn’t that farfetched. When aliens attack earth, believing that the time capsule they find in outer space is a challenge, and use beloved video games like Space Invaders for the attacks, Cooper goes to get advice from the only person he knows that is an expert at video games – Brenner.
Brenner brings in Ludlow (Josh Gad), a former child video game star who is now an adult conspiracy theorist. He also brings in Eddie (Peter Dinklage), who went from winning the video game tournament as a child to becoming a criminal and prisoner as an adult. Together, the four childhood video game fans set out to stop the aliens, who launch attacks by using the video game features that they discovered through the time capsule, including Centipede, Pac Man and Donkey Kong.
There is nothing realistic about this movie. Brenner has an antagonistic-romantic relationship with a very beautiful woman named Violet (Michelle Monaghan), who also happens to work for the president. The idea of the president going to a grade school friend to get advice is very far-fetched. Brian Cox is very much over-the-top as a military admiral who hates everything about the president’s plan but comes across as more of an antagonist blocking the survival of the world at every turn.
The humor is hit and miss. There are things that my son loved, such as when an alien that looks like Q-Bert was sent as a trophy for the Earthlings after winning a battle, which many adults would see as cheap humor. There is also some very offensive British humor thanks to Penelope Wilton as the Prime Minister. There is a very awkward cameo by Sean Bean as an SAS Officer. The humor is juvenile, but that might be part of the reason my son has seen Pixels in theaters two other times, with different people he convinced to take him. Humor over his head included the Martha Stewart and Serena Williams gag, one that was just wrong on every level.
As I said, this movie was not meant for film critics. And, there is nothing wrong with that. This movie was meant for people who want empty-headed bubble gum fun and for kids. For those people, Pixels is a lot of fun. For anyone wanting more from their summer blockbuster fun, stick with Ant-Man. However, the critics who blasted Pixels as one of the worst movies of all time just don’t understand audiences outside of their own bubble.