Is the hate for Pixels‘ even warranted?

by Steve Pulaski

The immense hate for Pixels has me asking a serious question for those who hate the film, did you hate the concept or did you simply find yourself refusing any inkling of positivity or humor whilst watching the film upon seeing Adam Sandler as the top-billed actor? I ask this question as somebody who finds myself at odds with Sandler on most of his projects, but also somebody willing to admit his achievements and provide him with credit when he deserves it.

I ask this because it seems the good majority of the public, and critics for that matter, have given up on Adam Sandler, ostensibly just waiting to hate the next project he’s working on before it’s even released. The negative buzz around Pixels, similar to Blended, Sandler’s last feature, started early and never let up. While Sandler has given himself plenty of reasons (and films, for that matter) to dislike him and his work, I feel under the work of any other actor besides Sandler and his production company, Pixels would’ve at least garnered a handful of defenders.

Pixels is a brazenly silly sound and lights show, one that works predominately because of its willingness to exhaust its premise and use many actors with differing personalities to carry the entire show. That, right there, is about all I can say for the film: it’s cheeky, it’s relentlessly goofy, but it’s also just funny enough and adventurous enough to recommend to anyone searching for that piece of entertainment in the cool multiplexes during this hot summer.

Directed by
Chris Columbus
Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan
Release Date
24 July 2015
Steve’s Grade: B

The film opens with Sam Brenner and Will Cooper, two best friends who spend their days at the arcade, where Sam discovers his incredible skill for video games. Will encourages him to compete in the first video game championship of 1982, which will be recorded and sent into space by NASA, along with other artifacts. At the tournament, however, Sam winds up losing to Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage), a cocky, professional video gamer.

Decades later, Sam (Adam Sandler) works as an installer of software and his pal Will (Kevin James) goes on to be The President of the United States, still both very close friends despite their difference in power. One day, Will calls Sam into the office to observe an attack on a military base in Guam by what looks to be the video game pixels and characters from the arcade game Galaga. Baffled by the insanity of this possibility, Sam reconnects with Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), a pudgy conspiracy theorist whom he met at the video game tournament back in the 1980’s. Ludlow shows Sam a video claiming to be sent from aliens that the videotape of the tournament was seen as a declaration of war, prompting the aliens to send the video game characters from classic arcade games to attack the world. The world gets “three lives,” so to speak, which are lost if one particular battle (video game) is lost. Three lost battles and the Earth is terminated.

Desperate and out of options, Will orders Sam, Ludlow, Eddie, and his unique weapons specialist Lieutenant Colonel Violent van Patten (Michell Monaghan) to fight the pixelated monsters, which come in the form of Centipede, Pac-Man, and eventually Donkey Kong.

It shouldn’t take more than a minute of watching the trailer for Pixels to decide if you’d want to see something like this. Those who do, if they view the film as the basic summer entertainment that the film is trying to be, will find a perfectly acceptable and balanced dose of fun. Pixels also works as a showcase for a divisive array of talent. We have Sandler, who is surprisingly very relaxed and nonchalant throughout the whole film, James, who is toned down several notches from his usual self as well, Gad, who bears the same kind of energy Sandler did in his heyday, only with much more personality, and Dinklage, who’s narcissism and brazen attitude effectively make his character.

Finally, Pixels works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously; it knows exactly what it needs to do to succeed and that is to be a nonstop display of action with a great visual scheme and characters that are at least somewhat fun to be around. This may not be a showstopper of a film, but it’s something that definitely caters to a season of films where numerous other, lesser films find themselves being defended while Pixels sits and suffers in a “guilt by association” manner.