Pixels

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Cineworld cinemas offer a subscription service where you pay once to see any/every film. I use this to watch films I like but also to simply kill time. With that in mind I see most films that come out in cinemas whether or not they are any good. There are a few types of films that I dread: horror films because I find them tedious, films based on computer games because they rarely capture the mood of the game and finally Adam Sandler films because, well… Adam Sandler.

The idea of going to see an Adam Sandler film based on video games was like biting into a depression sandwich – You know the outer layers look a bit stale and the filling could be spam for all you know. Stale spam in fact.

I was preparing myself for an experience worse than watching the last Twilight film whilst a herd of cats poddle at your eyes but I was wrong. Well… sort of!

In my opinion, if you are going to make a comedy about a hobby or a pastime then you either need to overtly poke fun about the ridiculous idiosyncrasies of said hobby or show some reverence to it. That way you bridge both lovers and haters by re-inforcing its silliness or informing what makes it great. Pixels falls into a void between both of these.

Aspects of the film poke fun at gaming culture in the form of Josh Gad who plays Ludlow “Wonder-Kid” Lamonsoff. Ludlow is still living in his grandparents’ basement, doesn’t particularly look after his physique, gets too deep into conspiracy theories and critically; has terrible social skills.

Reducing this character to a base stereotype feels like a lazy comedy trope but Ludlow actually has some of the best lines in the film or rather provides the best delivery of them. Because he is so socially inept his raucous outbursts become actually quite funny and none more so than when he flips and starts belittling a group of elite soldiers. The juxtaposition of this useless man berating rows of Adonises is certainly a highlight but there are other rants that punctuate an otherwise comedy-void film.

The biggest offender here is Adam Sandler who is on autopilot. He provides such a bland performance that I wonder if he actually gave a shit about being in this film. The other offender is Peter Dinklage who plays Eddie “Fire Blaster” Plant. I really can’t make out this character, it’s like the writers couldn’t work out if they wanted a wannabe, cheese-ball, lover similar to Austin Powers, a southern hick or just an arrogant jock so they just smashed all these ideas together and hoped for the best. The bizarre traits of this character negate any humour that he tries to portray.

Similar to how the humour is lacking there isn’t particularly any nostalgia over the types of games they include in the film as it doesn’t make any real point as to why they are enjoyable, why they are relevant or even how these old arcade games have evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry and has permeated popular culture to the extent that ‘gamification’ is now in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The fact that old arcade games are used must simplay be to fit in with the plot of a time capsule being sent to space and time passing before it is picked up by an alien race. I guess that’s fine but it’s missed a trick to make the film anything more than a redundant ‘comedy’.

Pixels does have an ace up it’s sleeve to keep this film from being an infuriating lame duck and that is the impeccable CGI. The effects in Pixels really is terrific. Ignore the actual video game characters and just watch how everything they touch gets shattered into a thousand multi-coloured cubes – or pixels if you will. The physics of how each block moves and falls to the ground is so lifelike that I still wonder how they achieved the effects. Did they have a load of blocks and CGI a car around it or did the have a car and CGI the blocks? It really is impressive.

The obvious fun of seeing a giant Pac-Man prowling the streets of New York and the excellent CGI work gives +8 to the film’s base entertainment stat but the tedious attempts at comedy and the absence of any underlying message stops this from being a triple A title. If this film was to re-spawn with a better script and funnier players it might actually be a winner.

Go See

  • Great effects
  • Pac-Man
  • Josh Gad

Avoid

  • Adam Sandler
  • It’s not funny
  • The ‘Dink’

Overall

2-5-stars

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