Jan 15, 2016

[Movies] Pixels (2015)

While the lines between generations often blur, I find that I most identify as a child of the 80's more than anything else. There's just something about the culture of the period that really spoke to me on a different level, even though you could argue that more of my conscious childhood took place during the 90's or thereabouts.

So you'd think that a movie about 1980's video games invading the Earth would be something I'd totally love. And really, I wanted to love Pixels, too, on some level, since it promised to celebrate a key part of my childhood and the younger years of many others.

But then it's also an Adam Sandler movie, which isn't always the greatest comedy genre for me. I respect that there are people who find his brand of humor funny and there are some movies of his that I've enjoyed. But in recent years it feels more and more like he has been following a formula of sorts that isn't exactly proven to be super successful all the time.

Synopsis: Pixels is a 2015 is a science fiction comedy movie inspired by a 2010 short film of the same name by Patrick Jean. The screen play was written by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling.

We first start in 1982 and meet Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito) and his friend William Cooper (Jared Riley). Both are pretty keen on video games but Brenner seems to have a particular skill for them since he's able to quickly digest the patterns that drive the games and is thus able to exploit vulnerabilities. But he loses in a video game championship because of the nature of Donkey Kong and the skills of another player, Eddie Plant (Andrew Bambridge). Fast forward to the present and Sam (Adam Sandler) is now a tech installer while William (Kevin James) is the current President of the United States.

On an install job Sam meets now single mother Violet (Michelle Monaghan) and her son Matty (Matt Lintz). There's a spark of attraction between Sam and Violet,  but the moment passes and Sam completes his work. After, both are surprised to find themselves both at the White House because of a looming crisis - an attack on a US military base that appears to be done by Galaga-style UFOs. Soon, it is revealed that a space probe with 1982 video games was misinterpreted as a declaration of war and now they were challenging the planet Earth to a best-of-three situation for control of the planet using video game style constructs.

First, it hurts my head to call this a science fiction movie and maybe we should stress the comedy side of things. A lot of bits in this movie don't make a heck of a lot of scene from a logical or scientific perspective, but there's no point dwelling on that. Instead we think about how much we want to see pixelated video game constructs fight real people in a clever way.

It's hard to believe why any government would entrust the fate of the world to some random guys that were friends with the President. And it's also not clear why it only seems to be the US government taking action on what is a sort of global threat. Sure one battle took place in England but then it's not like Her Majesty's troops were in control of operations while there. Add in some almost magical light technology that is invested on the spot as a weapon against the invaders and it really gets far-fetched.

The movie leaves you with a lot of questions like why does Violet fall in love with Sam so quickly when if anything it all felt rather creepy? Why was the second game of Pac-Man designed so that the humans were the ghosts instead of, well, Pac-Man? Why do military become incapable of fighting video game monsters despite the almost magical invention of those light guns? Blah blah blah...

There's a little romance thrown into things since Adam Sandler likes to appear all sweet and thoughtful on-screen. I'm not sure where the friendship is between the characters of Sam, William and eventually Ludlow (Josh Gad). And why did Peter Dinklage agree to star in this movie? It still made more sense to me that he was okay with Knights of Badassdom. There's a weird third act pseudo-villain plot for the military because Kevin James is not a very persuasive President. And I still don't get the Pac-Man bit.

But lighten up, right? It's "just" a movie and I should just enjoy it for what it was. But I can't quite shake off the feeling of wishing that the movie had been more awesome with a more coherent plot and no need for a supposed video game ninja who appears in the real-world without pixelation. So maybe things could have been tightened up in terms of the writing.

Pixels was a light enough movie that certainly had it's entertainment value to some extent. It's not going to inspire a thousand term papers nor will it really jump up your repeat watching queue, but I suppose it helps pass the time. Thus the movie gets 1.5 silly little pixel aliens out of a possible 5.


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