Butter is my drug of choice. But growing up, I knew a lot of people with that 8-bit monkey on their back who were lost for days at a time in the local video arcade like 19th-century addicts at an opium den.
In the new Adam Sandler comedy “Pixels,” President Kevin James (don’t laugh, it could happen) had his own “digital choom” gang in 1982 that included his best friend Sam (Sandler), conspiracy geek Ludlow (Josh Gad), and Donkey Konger extraordinaire Eddie (Peter Dinklage). They were part of a videotaped arcade competition sent into space on a time capsule along with other pop culture icons of the era (e.g., a Madonna interview and a Max Headroom spot).
Unfortunately, aliens intercepting the rocket misinterpreted the video as an act of war and dispatch battleships in the form of classic games to challenge us with the message, “lose three games and the planet is destroyed.” So the predictably hapless president — whose pronunciation of “ca-tat-a-stropic” warrants a meme — assembles a dream team of childhood pals and military high-tech gadgets to play for realsies.
Hardcore gamers are vindicated: all that practice finally pays off. Hang on, let me press the reset button. It is Adam Sandler who is vindicated. The actor has persevered after a string of terrible films, pushing on in spite of calls from global humanitarian organizations to retire. Here at last, under the capable hand of director Chris Columbus (“Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Home Alone,” “Harry Potter” 1 and 2) and big budget effects, is a watchable movie. Not “spect-ta-tactical” but far better than what the cacophony of critics would have you believe.
From the Galaga attack on Guam and Centipede siege on Hyde Park to Pac-Man eating everything in his way as he traverses the streets of Manhattan, “Pixels” is chock full of nostalgic eighties callbacks that children of the era will appreciate. Naturally this all leads-up to an epic showdown against the king of all nemeses, Donkey Kong.
Most refreshing is that Sandler himself, typically sucking all of the air out of his films, lets the rest of the cast shine, Dinklage and Gad especially.
Personally, I would have liked to see Frogger in an expanded role but the Toru Iwatani (inventor of Pac-Man) character was a nice touch.
Not the best movie out there but still more fun than watching yours truly play Dance Dance Revolution.
Med City Movie Guy’s Rating: 3 Honks