When I heard that there’s going to be a new film titled Pixels, I was excited for several reasons. One, the analog-vs-digital thing is a subject of great fascination to me, and I wondered if the movie would actually delve into this theme and at least make a stab at providing some insight or make some astute observations about the fundamental concepts of the corporeal and the virtual. Then, I heard that the film is directed by Chris Columbus and stars Adam Sandler; and all those expectations quickly flew out the window.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the filmmaker doesn’t have to look at a concept from the same angle as I do, as Columbus isn’t Fincher or Michael Mann, after all – but Pixels is just plain bad on every level whatsoever. It’s utterly boring, unfunny, and retrograde. Forget about having a smidgeon of brains, the film doesn’t even work at the most basic level. It’s a ride that’s anything but enjoyable.
The premise concerns certain videogame data shot up into space by NASA in the 80s which the alien beings mistake to be a waging of war. The aliens send the videogame characters to earth to fight the earthlings, and the deal is that whoever wins the war conquers the other’s planet. The American authorities have to turn to Sam (Sandler), a nerd who did nothing with his life except whiling away his time playing videogames – the inherent message being that all the time Sam and his cohorts wasted in their youth will now come in handy for – I’m not making this up – saving humankind. Yeah, it’s that lame.
There are several potentially interesting things here - I like the idea of making the POTUS (who happens to be Sam’s childhood friend- a likable buffoon, but nothing interesting is made of the device, save for some stupid low-bro jokes. Instead of amping up the surrealism and absurdity, this is a strangely restrained movie (don’t tell me you were going for so-called “realism”, Mr. Columbus.) The premise offers ample room for letting loose some madly inventive sense of humour, but there’s little craziness, little humour to the proceedings – it’s all very dull, predictable to the core and goes on forever. It’s a tremendous bore.