After a solid opening weekend the one thing to come out of Pixels was that it was the worst film ever made. That’s a regular thing with Adam Sandler films as of late; everyone is in such a rush to condemn them that it’s a battle of who can be the angriest, most obnoxious and hate filled film reviewer on the web. It was the same thing with Mad Max: Fury Road when a men’s rights website went after the film’s feminist tone and everyone en masse responded by raving about its feminist tone.
It’s something I wrote about in a column, actually, and the extended backlash to Pixels was expected. Negative reviews often have an avalanche effect; people want to be on the “right” side of things more often than not. Thus Pixels has come and holding steady, as Sandler is still a box office draw to some degree, but here’s the thing. Pixels isn’t the worst film ever made in the history of film. If you by a ticket to it you aren’t contributing to the decline of western civilization in any way. Adam Sandler isn’t the Typhoid Mary of cinema, infecting everything in his grasp with awful that you helped perpetuate by buying a ticket to his movie. In the internet age of discussing film we often forget that not everything is the worst thing ever created, invented or discussed and Pixels has lent itself to this sort of discussion merely for existing, it seems.
In the end … you just bought a ticket to a bad film that treads on nostalgia to the point of insult.
Sandler plays himself, once again, as a TV installer who was once an arcade game world champion. Josh Gad does, as well, as he plays his usual sort of creepy weirdo and Kevin James as the bumbling, overweight President that Saturday Night Live would make of New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Peter Dinklage also shows up as Sandler’s childhood rival, complete with a mullet. They have to pool their resources together as aliens invade, taking the form of early 1980s arcade games. Together they lead the counter attack to save Earth.
And to be fair this isn’t a good film. This is a film that treads on nostalgia for 1980s video games that really isn’t there anymore. There never was, to be fair, as the terrible video games are now a novelty you can play on your phone for a couple weeks before moving back to Candy Crush or Boom Beach. It is pandering to the generations that grew up in the brief era where video game arcades were the only place to play video games with everyone in the local area. For a film designed to entertain those not old enough to drive, but too old for Disney, it’s an interesting strategy because this is a film that should be designed towards people over 30 who remember the days of making sure you had enough quarters to beat “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” with three of your friends.
This is a film who’s subject matter would lend itself to those for whom The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters evoked a trip down memory lane. Yet it’s trying to appeal to a generation that was raised on “Halo” … it’s as if someone took an r-rated film about ’80s video games that was inexpensively budgeted and amped the budget up while making it fit a PG-13 rating instead. There’s something interesting going on here, revisiting an era long since gone, and there’s an interesting story about childhood glory leaving its mark on mediocre adults.
It’s baffling on any number of levels, the final execution, because the overall arc of the film has something to it. You can see it, and feel it once or twice, but the film feels as if it’s been gutted for simple gags and relentless callbacks to nostalgia that makes one wish they could wipe the 1980s out of the collective memory of everyone who lived through it. The film uses nostalgia for 1980s arcade games like a 20 something uses a “1980s Best of” for a theme party. They may think “Your Love” by the Outfield is an amazing song, and properly song at Patriots games, but they forgot that they had multiple albums of forgettable songs that weren’t that good as well.
Pixels isn’t even the worse film of the calendar year, much less of all time, but the backlash towards it is overkill at worst and profoundly unnecessary while being hilariously over the top to the point of absurdity. It’s just a bad film that panders towards the 13 year old in all of us and fails for the most part, nothing more.
Director: Chris Columbus Writer: Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling Notable Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Sean Bean