MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Pixels’ Is A Disaster In Every Way


Film: Pixels
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James
Directed by: Chris Columbus

Adam Sandler has official hit rock bottom, and he’s dragging your childhood heroes, as well as the great Peter Dinklage, down with him.

Pixels is exactly what we fear seeing when we pay to go to the movies. From beginning to end the film, which plays like an extended version of the spoiler heavy trailer with needless exposition added to extend its running time, is a complete waste of everything needed to make movies. The cast—while talented—folds completely under the pressure to make something memorable out of what I can only imagine was a paper thin script, and the plot has so many holes you are forced to question whether or not anyone read the screenplay before stepping foot on set. It’s a complete and utter disaster, which I pray none of you ever choose to experience…especially if you have to pay for admission.

The premise is simple. So simple, in fact, that the story was initially told through a three-minute short film created by Patrick Jean. Pixels, which was directed by Chris Columbus, runs nearly two hours in length and requires just over thirty minutes to explain what Jean was able to express in a fraction of the time due to an abhorrent amount of immediately forgotten jokes and tired retreads of the classic trope that all gamers are essentially useless in the real world. This is an idea that may have carried some weight a decade ago, but gaming is almost a universal pastime at this point. Even my grandparents have games on their phones in 2015, but this is a fact Pixels chooses to ignore so it can cash in on quick, humorless jabs at various main characters whenever the story calls for added exposition.

The reason aliens have chosen to attack the Earth is due to a message we beamed into space several decades back. It seems the governments of the world wanted to share our culture with anyone in space who could receive our dispatch, including video games, but they never stopped to think whether or not aliens would understand the meaning and purpose of those games. In Pixels, the planet receiving our messages see the games displayed as an example of war, and they decide to challenge our planet in a series of competitions to see who is better. If they win, we die. If we win, they leave. It’s an explanation that only makes enough sense to propel the story forward, but it’s never thought out enough to be entirely convincing. Why would aliens challenge us to games we created? Why would they sometimes choose to appear as the bad guy, as they do in a scene involving the game Centipede, then turn around and appear as the good guy moments later (as they do when Pac-Man attacks New York)? If anything, the aliens never really seem to understand the games, which makes their decision to use them as a weapon against us even more bizarre.

If the jokes, acting, or surrounding narrative elements were any good I could probably overlook the numerous gaping plot holes found in Pixels, but the entire affair feels like an excuse to burn studio cash. Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad and Michelle Monaghan are tasked with helping Sandler sell the story to the audience, as well as several notable actors and actresses who appear in bit parts, but not a single person can deliver a believable performance in this underdeveloped slog. Maybe they knew during production what kind of disaster they were making and simply decided to check out. I’m not sure, but at least that would tell us that they too realize what a complete waste of digital celluloid this entire affair turned out to be.

It’s not even clear who Pixels was made to entertain. It’s certainly not made for kids as none of the references touch on games released in the last two decades, but the focus on Sandler’s lifelong laziness tells me it’s also not for thirty-somethings like myself who remember playing the games that appear in the film as children. If anything, the film seems to be targeting those who may or may not be pushing fifty that feel as if the only thing good that ever happened in their lives was the day they discovered video games. While I’m sure that is indeed a market that can be targeted, there is no way it’s big enough to justify a film that makes next to no effort to pander to any other set of gamers whatsoever.

Before I write so much that my review becomes as redundant and tiring as the film it’s focused on, allow me to summarize my thoughts by saying that Pixels will go down in history as one of the worst films of 2015. It’s also one of the most expensive-looking disasters I’ve seen in many years. It’s as if someone gave Adam Sandler a truck filled with money, turned their back, and never again looked to see how their cash was being spent. By spent, I might as well say burned, because that is exactly what this film appears to do with every good idea or person involved; it burns them. When the credits roll, it’s a miracle Sandler and his friends don’t appear in the background, laughing their asses off at the fact they’ve once again roped us into giving them our money while hundred dollar bills rain from the sky and fall at their feet.

Please don’t buy into this trash.


Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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