Pixels Parent Review
"Pixels" offers a heroic conclusion for virtual vigilantes and aging joystick jockeys. Still, the extravaganza struggles in plot development and at being a family film.
Video games now span three generations and to celebrate Adam Sandler and Chris Columbus have teamed together to create a film that attempts to attract boomers, gen-xers and millennials all together in one big happy box office busting party.
In Pixels Brenner is a young guy (played by Anthony Ippolito) living in the video arcades of 1982 with his buddies Cooper (Jared Riley) and Ludlow (Jacob Shinder). Brenner is the master of Space Invaders, Centipede and many of the other popular diversions of his time. Gunning for the world championship gaming title, his hopes of being the best are dashed after he loses to the reigning victor, Eddie (Andrew Bambridge) in a decisive game of Donkey Kong. And thanks to a special promotion by NASA, his failure is recorded and sent into space as part of a time capsule of Earth’s culture.
Fast forward to the present day. Brenner (Adam Sandler) and Cooper (Kevin James) are best buddies even though the former is a nerd for hire—a guy who sets up your TV and sound system—and the latter is the current president of the USA. (Yes, this is a Sandler film, so Kevin James as president is well within the realm of possibility…) While on a routine installation call, Brenner meets homeowner Violet (Michelle Monaghan), a beautiful woman going through a divorce. There his still tattered confidence takes another hit after she rejects his advances based on his income level and general slovenliness.
Fortunately fate intervenes when aliens from another world invade Earth with creatures based on those 1980s video games. It seems the VHS tape of the arcade action shot out to the universe was misinterpreted as an act of war. Now Brenner, along with Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Eddie (Peter Dinklage), are given the ultimate joystick challenge by the president himself: Beat the aliens and save the world. Even better, our hero discovers Violet is a defense advisor in the federal government, and a victory will certainly score him big points with her.
Not surprisingly this script follows the usual Sandler template, although the creative game graphics may possibly make the movie the most expensive his company has ever produced. Playing the down-on-his-luck underdog, with an attractive woman by his side, we know without a doubt the outcome will result in a collection of cameo appearances (undoubtedly combed from Sandler’s impressive Rolodex), punctuated by copious product placements. Of course there are also the expected sexual innuendos and double entendre that are a staple of Sandler humor and these may create some confusion for parents. After all, here is a fun looking flick with colorful video game characters, which seems perfectly aimed at a young teen audience. So what’s up with the PG-13 rating?
While the off color remarks are fewer than what’s found in many other Sandler-funded films, they are still a blight on an otherwise creative and entertaining concept, as are scenes of characters drinking to excess. As well you’ll hear some scatological terms, along with mild and moderate profanities. In addition, Pixels is full of violence evoking the style of early video games, but it is highly fantastic with animated characters and humans disintegrating into colorful pixelated blocks.
Satisfying the dreams of every young boy and older male who love video games, Pixels offers a heroic conclusion for virtual vigilantes and aging joystick jockeys. Still, the extravaganza often struggles to stay on track—in both plot development and its intent to truly be a family film.Directed by Chris Columbus. Starring Adam Sandler, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage . Running time: 106 minutes. Theatrical release July 24, 2015. Updated May 13, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Pixels here.
Pixels Parents Guide
Many parents have warned their children about the dangers of spending too much time playing video games. What kinds of future careers are depicted for the champion gamers in this movie? What happened to the kid who wasn’t very good at the sport? Is that a fair portrayal? How realistic is the idea that the skills acquired while playing will one day be transferable to a real world need?
From the Studio: In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth, using the games as models for their various assaults. President Will Cooper (James) has to call on his childhood best friend, ‘80s video game champion Sam Brenner (Sandler), now a home theater installer, to lead a team of old-school arcaders (Dinklage and Gad) to defeat the aliens and save the planet. Monaghan plays the team’s unique weapons specialist. The action-comedy is directed by Chris Columbus from a story by Tim Herlihy and a screenplay by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, based on the short film of the same name by Patrick Jean. The film is produced by Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, and Allen Covert. Executive Producers are Barry Bernardi, Michael Barnathan, Jack Giarraputo, Heather Parry, Tim Herlihy, Steve Koren, Patrick Jean, Benjamin Darras, Johnny Alves, Matias Boucard, Seth Gordon, and Ben Waisbren. (c) Sony