The logos roll, the movie begins, a classic rock tune blasts through the speakers, and I immediately feel comfortable and smile. Every summer, for the better part of the last two decades, I’ve been a steady consumer of Adam Sandler’s seasonal cinematic offering. Admittedly, the quality and laugh quotient have varied from picture to picture over the years, but his latest, Pixels, is a real crowd pleaser that’s sure to amuse anyone born between 1970-1985. Of course it’s meant for general audiences, but that specific age group are likely to better appreciate the (dated) pop culture references.
As a kid, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was the second best arcade player in the world, only losing to Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) in a Donkey Kong championship back in 1982. During the event the organizers beamed a signal of the video-game contest into space. Now, thirty years later aliens are attacking the Earth in the form of classic Arcade characters. Pac-Man chomps up most of New York before Sam, Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie, dubbed “the arcaders” are dispatched to take down the towering pixellated creature. This leads to more challenges from the invading race that appear in various formats including Tetris, Centipede, and Donkey Kong. Kevin James is onboard as the un-respected, but affable President of the United States. While Michelle Monaghan is a military officer, who becomes an official member of “the arcaders”, and a love interest for the Sandler character.
For all the media noise that was made over the mediocre Ghostbusters (2016) reboot it’s a shame that folks didn’t realize Pixels is the more authentic reboot of that seminal action/sci-fi/comedy hybrid. This is a film that enjoyably mixes family entertainment with nostalgia for their parents in a non-patronizing manner. Chris Columbus, the man behind colossal hits like Ms. Doubtfire, Harry Potter, and The Goonies, brings his assured vision to the material resulting in a reigned in Sandler to better effect. After 2014’s disastrous Blended, I was nearly ready to desert the once king of screen comedy, but Pixels is one of Sandler’s best efforts.
Director Chris Columbus
Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan