Just give it up, Sand-man. Sandler, once a box office draw with a huge fan-base in the 90’s, is now nothing short of maligned. It’s not like it’s unfounded, though. Have you seen Jack and Jill? Sandler’s nosedive has been very well documented and Pixels further confirms it. It’s hard not to be cynical about him when looking at his recent work. He phones in a performance here that is totally unfunny and kind of depressing. He’s grown out of his Happy Gilmore/Billy Madison-style of humor and has been unable to find something that works for him. The man is capable of great performances, see Punch-Drunk Love for proof. His total commitment to making terrible stuff is disappointing.
Wasted talent. After scooping up the rights to the short film, Sandler assembled a pretty decent team to help him make this movie. Kevin James, not part of the decent team mentioned previously, inexplicably plays, and yes you are reading this correctly, the President of the United States of America. If Kevin James is the president in this movie universe, I don’t even want to know what Donald Trump’s title is. However, the film does have some very talented actors such as Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Monaghan, and Brian Cox, all of whom are utterly wasted. Gad and Dinklage, two super likable guys, play absolutely obnoxious characters who have zero funny moments. Actually I take that back, Gad’s character sings Tears for Fears in a totally pointless and inconsequential scene which happens to be the only part of the movie that made me smile.
Round two. Fight! But wait, how’s the video game action? Well, it’s super boring in fact. There are no stakes here. All the invaders do is cause extensive property damage. The film never establishes the aliens as a threat to any human life and even if it did, none of the characters are likable so no one would care anyway. The concept is kind of cute for a short film, but runs out of steam when stretched out for the 100 minute run-time. Inconsistencies and an abundance of stupidity ensues with approximately zero of the hijinks creating any laughter. If the film doesn’t lose you with a sudden disregard of a cheating mechanic, perhaps using one of the film’s two female characters as a literal trophy will do the trick.
They just didn’t get it. This may be the film’s worst offense: they don’t appreciate or understand the stuff they are putting on screen. The images of these games are put up there as “nostalgia inducers” and nothing else. There is no reverence for these games. When characters call Sandler’s crew “nerds” it feels like the filmmakers think of 80’s gamers (the target audience) as nerds. One could say that there’s no respect for the source material. Pixels whole purpose is to fund more Happy Madison company vacations in Tijuana or wherever.
Don’t get burned by Sandler again. This one is a definite skip.