Earlier this week, I wrote a review for the 2015 movie Pixels on Filmblerg.com. Unfortunately it was cut for space. So I thought I’d add the rest here for posterity and as a deadly warning against spending money on an Adam Sandler movie.
Here’s part two. It follows on from the character descriptions.
The “B” Characters are just as bad.
Dan Akroyd makes a cameo appearance as the MC of the 1982 video game championship, and then spells out what NASA actually stands for, in deference to the fact that at that point in history, the agency had put twelve men on the moon and the space shuttle was the latest thing in space flight.
Admiral Porter (Brian Cox) is written as an arrogant, verbally abusive man; he’s “Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott, Doctor Strangelove) without the wit and self awareness, and not a single gag based around him is even remotely funny. When threatened by a video game alien, he grabs Sean Bean’s SAS corporal and screams like he’s Daffy Duck about to be hit with an Anvil. Not even the kids in the cinema laughed at this joke.
In fact, the only point of difference in the movie appears to be Sean Bean actually survives, despite being the one character in living memory that he’s played that deserved an untimely death. His one gag is to insist that the Centipede video game attack is, despite evidence to the contrary, an advert for beer. Funny? I almost laughed. As a related side note: why the writers made him an Special Air Services corporal is beyond me; again, it’s like they heard of the SAS and thought they’d add him in for no apparent reason.
Then there’s the women.
The British Prime Minister (Fiona Shaw) is painted as an incomprehensible, aphorism spouting incompetent, then when President Cooper yells at her, goes along with it because, apparently, being the leader of the United Kingdom means you kowtow to the Americans no matter how abusive they are.
Serena Williams at first rejects Eddie’s lewd advances (just like Major Violet did to Brenner), then once the battle is won, invites him to the White House where she’s in a bedroom with Martha Stewart. Because in this world, if you’re a winner, women fall over themselves to get at you. Just like Brenner and Violet.
Maybe Adam Sandler is making a point about feminism? Maybe the movie is intended to demonstrate, clearly and distinctly, how women are manipulated by popular culture and expected to behave by misogynists. But it’s doubtful, ultimately because that would infer some kind of deliberate plotting took place, rather than a world where things happen because of incomprehensibly lazy “reasons”.
In this sense, the final scene is the cherry on the cake.
Ludlow’s true love, the video game character “Lady Lisa” who for “reasons” didn’t just kill him when she had the chance (then joined the fight against her own people!), has disappeared along with the rest of the video game creatures. All but “Q-Bert” a trophy awarded the humans for winning a battle. And it’s all very sad for him. But then, for no apparent reason, Q-Bert goes cross-eyed then morphs into another copy of Lady Lisa, thus giving Ludlow the love of his life (and a LITERAL trophy wife).
To which Brenner comments thus:
“Is no-one else weirded out by this?”
Seriously. Whether this was intended to break the fourth wall or not, it sums up the entire movie.
Then, just to ram home what an absolute, unbelievably unfunny and – let’s say it, creepy – character Ludlow actually is (and indeed, the movie as a whole), in a pre-credits sequence set “one year later”, there’s a ten second shot of a bunch of Q-Bert babies bouncing in a crib.
Words fail me.
If this movie was made in the late 1990s then maybe, just maybe, it might have passed muster. As it is, Pixels is an underwhelming, unfunny, bizarre mishmash of poorly executed ideas and characterisations. The only funny thing about it is that the effects manage – even with the addition of millions of dollars and 3D glasses – to somehow look identical to those in the original short film.