Hyped to be one of the greatest comedy films of the decade, I was looking forward to Pixels. In case you were curious, I was the one who was hyping it up. Donkey Kong and Pac Man were going to be in the same film. How could you not get excited when Super Smash Bros was finally coming to life? The first trailer was incredible and it was actually taken seriously for a while. The second half of the trailer hinted that the film would be a comedy, but for most of it, it looked like a serious action thriller. The film wasn’t anything like that, but it’s nice to think of how it could have been.
The film begins with Sam as a kid going to the arcade with his friend. Right from the start, we learn that he’s a pretty selfish/immoral kid who doesn’t mind stealing money from a little girl who was selling lemonade. That was just terrible and it was an early sign that this character would not be heroic. Sam lost a big tournament of video games and his life spiraled out of patrol. He became a part of a Nerds brigade and spends his time flirting. Luckily, Sam’s friend became the President so Sam still has connections. When Aliens attack the planet, Sam knows who he has to call!
Unfortunately, this film ended up being a bit of a train wreck. None of the characters were likable and the film made the big mistake that many comedy films end up falling into, many of the jokes are simply crude and inappropriate. For every good joke, there will be about 10 that are simply bad and a reason why comedy films don’t have a great rep anymore. It’s too bad because there are a lot of scenes that are actually funny. A good example of this is just about any moment with the President or some of Sam’s scenes like him reciting the nerds speech and getting called out for it. I also loved it when Sam walked into the White House in shorts and almost backed out of saving the world because the main heroine was “being mean.” The film had promise and I actually found it funnier than Ant Man or just about any comedy film that I’ve seen in a long time.
Once again, it’s held back by all of the bad jokes though. The characters are constantly flirting and joking about girls. Making really bad comments is something that each character does a lot and one character’s whole gimmick is that he’s very crude and always making a dirty remark. That would be Eddie, the worst character in the film. A close second is Ludlow. Most of his jokes rely on acting gay and being the stereotypical version of what some people believe gamers to be. He doesn’t know how to act in public and is in love with a video game character. He’s just terrible and his long speech in the army room is wince worthy. His singing is also terrible because he accompanies it with provocative dancing.
I’d like to say that Sam was a good character, but I’ve already explained that he isn’t. He allows his friends to steal money and he does not regret it at all. A character breaks up with someone so Sam immediately takes this as his clue to hit on her. He’s just not a sensitive guy and even though he gets most of the funny moments in the film, it can’t save his character. I’m in the minority in that I think Sandler played the part well and his character was easily one of the best humans, but he still doesn’t get a pass due to just how bad this film was. My favorite human in this film was the President, not that it is really saying much. His jokes were typically funny and he always rolled with the punches. It’s very intriguing to think of how America would be if he was the President. He’s still in charge though so he makes everyone respect him when the going gets tough. Violet is the main heroine and the film tries to make her look as bad as possible in the beginning. While she tries to be tough and insults Sam a lot, she ultimately realizes that he’s a good guy and the usual deal. She didn’t get a lot of character development except to be around for Sam’s character, but it’s not surprising that the film didn’t know how to develop her character.
When you really think about it, the writing is why this film is terrible. Take away the dozens of inappropriate and suggestive comments and you’ve actually got a good film going here. Of course, it’s so numerous and constant that Pixels would also be a completely different film. It’s like saying that Sucker Punch would be great if you took away the plot or that the Lord of the Rings would be epic if the characters were all robots. So, Pixels, as much as I like to think of how good it could be, it simply isn’t good.
At least we have the video game characters, which is the one bright point for the film. As you would expect, Pac Man looks downright incredible as he mows through buildings. He probably had the best acting in the film as he even changed expressions to show that he was upset after the characters started attacking him. There was a lot of plot hax in how the heroes overcame him since Pac Man was already faster than them when they were at top speed. There’s no way that Sandler could outrace Pac Man while driving backwards. There’s simply no way!
Donkey Kong also looks great and he even gets the cool “We Will Rock You” theme as the heroes mount their big offensive against him. The game was a lot of fun to play back in the day and the nostalgic music will certainly hit you right in the nostalgia. Stopping him is no easy feat and the action scene may have been the best one in the film as the heroes really had to stop the barrels from running them over.
Donkey Kong and Pac Man were really the only big hitters here. I think that it was a bit of a missed opportunity as we could have gotten more big names in the film. Mario makes a cameo, which is a lot of fun, but you have to be watching carefully or you may miss him. The Centipede also deals a lot of damage of course and we even get a delivery boy who destroys someone in the background, which was fairly shocking. That person may not have come back to life since she wasn’t a trophy so the film may have been a little grimmer than we thought. A certain Super Smash Bros player also makes a cameo.
As you can see, the film was great when it was in an action scene. It’s just when the characters would open their mouths to say something that everything would go downhill. I still did crack up many times in the film. Some were for the good jokes and other times I would laugh at how seriously the film was trying to take itself. For example, the first scene where the aliens attack the government base. It happened sooner than I thought it would and it was so grim and unrealistic that you can’t help but chuckle. Likewise when the characters dug out an old VHS that had the villain’s speech on it. If they hadn’t found the tape, the whole plot would never have become known to them. It felt like a Sci-Fy Channel plot twist!
Naturally with the writing as bad as it was, the film couldn’t really handle any of the plots that it had. Eddie’s was unbearably bad and Ludlow’s romance with the video game character was also horrendous. Watching a classic video game icon turn into the girl and immediately get together with Ludlow was terrible. There’s even a time skip where the plot gets even more messed up. Sam’s romance isn’t much better as he gets together with the heroine for no real reason and while she may have wanted a rebound guy, this was just too soon and too sudden. The scene of her crying in her closet was so bad that I could barely believe that it was real. She had been acting like the tough female protagonist that we have come to expect so this was so out of character that it was shocking.
At least the soundtrack was really good. As explained, we got the classic “We Will Rock You” song along with the Pac Man theme, Donkey Kong theme and some other retro tunes. Those were all a lot of fun and mixed in with the epic action scenes, they helped to tear you away from the rest of the film, which was just really wince worthy. Even the climax which is a long battle against the alien invasion of video games couldn’t save the film as it was too little too late.
The aliens never actually appear, but based off of the dialogue, we can make some connections. Q*bert talks about how his home used to be really happy until they got Earth’s declaration of war. Since he could not have his video game form until it was sent, I’m thinking that the aliens simply weren’t corporal. They can assume any shape, but their normal one is likely just intangible and something that exists, but can’t be seen. They obviously have tremendous abilities, but aren’t hostile by nature as they can enjoy a good laugh like the rest of us. If they attacked seriously, it would definitely be Game Over for Earth. A sequel where they adapt the 90’s of gaming would certainly be epic!
Overall, Pixels was a flop. Now, you may think that the film was still decent thanks to it actually being very funny at times, having good action scenes, and a good soundtrack, but I’m afraid that it is not the case. The writing is simply too bad with enough terrible scenes that I can’t give the film anything higher than a 1. It’s still a light film that you can breeze through so I would sooner see it than a lot of 2 star films and maybe even some 3’s, but I can’t give it more than the 1 due to how seriously bad it is. It’s easy to watch since most of the negatives are writing wise and just affect your hearing, but that’s still enough to doom it to a 1. It’s still not a 0 so at least it earned a point somewhere along the line. When you think of Pixels, just picture the scene where Sam walks into the White House and insults everyone while in shorts. That’s probably the best human scene except maybe for the President being humiliated on National Television. The video game scenes are mainly awesome and are the highlight with the fight scenes, but hopefully the sequel can be better. After all, it may be a verrrrry long time until I ever see a Sandler film again and they wouldn’t even need him for a Pixels film. Just call it Super Smash Bros and make it completely animated. Fire the current writer and get someone who knows how to make a script. Then we’re looking at a winner! I definitely don’t recommend watching this film and you’re better off just waiting for Mission Impossible 5 and seeing how good that one is.