Pixels (3D), film review: Strangely misconceived movie isn't a patch on Columbus' best work

(12A) Chris Columbus, 106 mins. Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage

Geoffrey Macnab@TheIndyFilm
Friday 14 August 2015 00:42
Not quite love at first byte: Serena Williams and Peter Dinklage in the strangely misconceived ‘Pixels’
Not quite love at first byte: Serena Williams and Peter Dinklage in the strangely misconceived ‘Pixels’

This exercise in Eighties computer-game nostalgia is strangely misconceived. It is evoking a world which, one guesses, will have no resonance at all for younger cinema-goers today – and only limited appeal for older ones who remember the heyday of all those bleeping Atari games. Director Columbus has made some of the most successful movies in cinema history but the blurry, unfocused Pixels isn't a patch on his best work.

Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler in familiar blue-collar everyman mode) is a TV technician who, back in his teenage years, was a video-game champ, excelling at Asteroid and Pac-Man. He has never lived down his failure to beat Eddie Plant (Dinklage) at the arcade-game world championship. While he has made little of his life, his childhood friend Cooper (Kevin James) has somehow become US President, albeit a deeply unpopular one.

Aliens attack Earth, challenging humans to a series of contests using real-life versions of games such as Pac-Man and Donkey King. At this point, Sam and Eddie Plant, sprung from prison for the purpose, are enlisted by Cooper to save humanity using their old skills. Everything here feels arbitrary. There is a strangely tagged-on romantic subplot involving Sandler and a glamorous divorcée (Monaghan) who happens to be a senior military figure in the White House. There are bizarre cameos from Serena Williams and Martha Stewart as themselves and a very hammy one from Sean Bean as a British soldier. The best that can be said is that the special effects are nifty enough and that Columbus references Eighties pop music and TV shows in an inventive and sometimes witty fashion.

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