Every year at this time I have to start emotionally preparing myself to watch at least one Adam Sandler movie. Because if there’s a list of the worst movies of the year, Adam Sandler is very likely to be on it. Sometimes multiple times!
I am in no way an Adam Sandler expert, but over the last several years I’ve suffered through Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2 and Blended, which were all pretty awful. Having said that, when I try to compare Pixels to these earlier movies … well, I’m going to use a concept that Mr. X likes to refer to as “damning with faint praise.” I can honestly say that while Pixels isn’t a great movie … IT ISN’T BAD FOR AN ADAM SANDLER MOVIE.
First off, no discussion of Pixels the movie would be complete without mentioning that first there was Pixels the short film. If you have two minutes and 34 seconds to spare, you should definitely watch that film.
Seriously, check it out right now. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
There, wasn’t that awesome? Okay, now we’re moving on to the movie, and things will mostly go downhill from there.
The plot of the movie is that when the earth is under alien attack by creatures that use video game technology, a bunch of guys who were once famous for their high scores in video games are called into service to defeat the aliens. And … that’s basically it. The movie stars some people whom you might expect (Adam Sandler and Kevin James) and a few who you might have thought would be above such things (Sean Bean? Peter Dinklage?) There is also a tiny appearance by Steve Wiebe of The King of Kong fame, which was kind of cute.
I guess the aspect of this film that makes it … okay, I’m not going to say “that makes it a great movie,” I’ll just say “that makes it suck less” is the 1980’s nostalgia factor. I happen to be Of a Certain Age, which means that I spent some of my formative teenage years in the 1980’s, and I played a lot of video games. That means that I’ll have a soft spot in my heart for movies that reference those old games, from documentaries like The King of Kong to feature films like Wreck-It Ralph and Pixels. Seeing references to games like Space Invaders, Centipede, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Q*bert make me happy because they make me feel like a kid again.
I guess it’s kind of like how it’s fun to eat the kinds of foods you ate as a kid, because it evokes a sense memory of a happier time. Now, Q*bert is not a madeleine and I wouldn’t dare compare an Adam Sandler movie to Remembrance of Things Past (BTW, don’t get too impressed with my highbrow literary references — I never got any further than the first chapter of the first book!) I’m just pointing out that something that reminds you of your childhood can bring you back to your happy place for a while.
So, I think that’s what saves this movie for me. The nostalgia factor, plus the cool and shiny special effects. It’s not a great movie, but I think it would be a fun movie to have on while hanging out with your friends and passing the popcorn around. This is nominated for worst picture of the year, but I don’t think it’s a strong contender. And I kind of mean that as a compliment.