In the third act of Sony’s video game comedy, Pixels, Josh Gad’s Ludlow professes his love to his 8-bit crush, the deadly assassin Lady Lisa, while she has him pinned down by a pair of swords. I was hoping she would run him through with the blade instead of falling for his romantic gestures because Gad’s annoying and uninspired performance represents the overall tone of the film.
The reviews were harsh going into the film’s opening weekend, but personal optimism outweighed critical dissatisfaction. The premise of aliens misinterpreting 1980’s arcade games as a declaration of war and turning these pop culture classics against humanity seemed like a home run concept. Especially if you watched the original French animated short film that this Hollywood incarnation is based on.
The storytelling was lazy, the characters were annoying, and the comedy relied on outdated jokes that got over like a fart in church. The aliens never appear in their true form, the military kept flip-flopping on the assistance they offered and the expertise of the arcade players even after they undoubtedly proved themselves, and there was a subplot involving cheat codes where there was no explanation as to how they were applied in a real-world scenario.
During the second wave of the attack from the aliens, the military finds themselves outmatched until Adam Sandler’s character, Brenner takes matters into his own hands and turns the tide against the assault disguised as the Atari classic, Centipede.
This was an inspired moment that the film was waiting for, which was augmented by the musical power ballad of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. More well-realized moments like this would have served the film well. Sadly, they never came and the movie regressed back to its original programming of dull and lethargic, well, everything.
The lovable little orange jumper, Q*bert had a modest role and instead of embracing and highlighting what people like about the character, they flip the script by giving him full dialogue instead of his “@!#?@1” dialect known as Qbertese. There were other creative decisions made with the character that just begged the question…..why?
There’s a couple things that bode in Pixels favor. The special effects were a masterpiece of visual delight and exhibited its full power during the chase scene where Pac-Man chomps his way through New York City in pursuit of Sandler and company. It was a breath of fresh air to see Peter Dinklage’s Eddie portrayed as an equal and important member of the team instead of his character being neutered by a plethora of short jokes referencing the actors height.
Some say Pixels is aimed primarily at children. That seems a little weird considering today’s youngsters didn’t grow up on the vintage games, such as Galaga, that the movie showcases. If by children, they meant the little kid inside of those who grew up with these classics, the nostalgia wasn’t nearly potent enough as Pixels fails to earn the high score that it should have achieved in spades.