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Pixels (2015 Movie) Review
"Pixels" is not a bad movie. Despite the many negative reviews it has received by critics, it is not as bad as many would have you believe. But neither is it a good one. Telling the story of an alien invasion of Earth through the use of Retro video game characters, "Pixels" is worth a one-time watch but no more than that. Admittedly, the premise of the movie was an ambitious one but sadly one that Director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) failed to pull off to a satisfying level.
Though aimed at children, the movie uses as its primary premise video games such as Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong, all of which are games a modern-day child is unlikely to have heard much about, let alone played. Having said that, the movie is fun, entertaining in parts and certainly not lacking in energy. It is a movie I would recommend watching once if you're looking for a fun, over-the-top, almost comedic children's Sci-Fi movie but it isn't one I'm likely to watch again and overall it is, ultimately, forgettable.
The movie begins in the 1980s at the Video Game World Championships during which Sam Brenner loses to Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones) at Donkey Kong. The movie then skips forward to the present day. Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) now works as a flat-screen TV installation technician and his childhood friend Will Cooper (Kevin James) is the President of the United States.
Not long after this we learn that Earth is under attack from an unknown enemy and soon Sam Brenner discovers from his other childhood friend, Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), that the invaders are aliens who intercepted a space probe sent out during the 1980s containing video game footage. The aliens interpreted this is a declaration of war and are attacking Earth using these video games as their medium. All three childhood friends must team up with Eddie Plant and Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) to put their video game expertise to the ultimate test and save the Earth.
Lively, Entertaining and Full of Energy
If there is one thing that can be said about "Pixels", it's that it is certainly lively and energetic. There is rarely a dull moment throughout the movie. Great action sequences are likely to keep a young audience entertained throughout the nearly two hours this movie runs for. But it is the flawless special effects that really make this movie stand out. The pixelated video game characters look great against the live-action backdrop. This is especially true in the Centipede scene, the Pac-Man scene and the final attack sequences.
Furthermore, the storyline is well developed and brought across in an easily-understandable way. The story is not entirely original (it is based on a 2010 animated movie of the same name by French director Patrick Jean) but this doesn't detract from the movie itself. The story holds the film together, gives it a solid base upon which to build and, most importantly, can be easily understood by its young target audience.
A Forgettable Experience
Unfortunately however, there are a number of flaws which, in my opinion, bring "Pixels" down from being a good movie to merely satisfactory. First among these is the acting. Whilst Adam Sandler gave a relatively poor but overall passable performance, the greatest disappointment came with Peter Dinklage, best known for playing Tyrion Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones". Dinklage's performance in the movie is satisfactory given the character he plays and the script he's working with but that's where the disappointment lies. I was expecting so much more from one of my all-time favourite actors and I feel that Dinklage's potential was wasted with this movie.
Secondly, there is an almost complete lack of character development and the seemingly forced romance between the protagonists doesn't add anything to the movie. The characterisation of the main characters is severely lacking and they all-too-often seem wooden and unlike real people. But my main issue in this regard was the romance between Brenner and Patten. Whilst this does appear to be an attempt at character development, it came across to me as forced and unbelievable.
However, my main criticism ties into one of my positive points which is the plot itself. Whilst I do feel that it is a strong and interesting plot, it is helpful to realise that this movie is aimed at children. The video games depicted all hail from the 1980s and thus the average child at whom this movie is aimed is unlikely to have even heard of let alone played the likes of Pac-Man, Centipede and Asteroid. An adult audience is likely to appreciate the references to 80s nostalgia but they are not the ones likely to be watching the movie. Though the plot is simple, its premise is likely to be unfamiliar to a child. Overall, the basic story is more likely to appeal to adults but the film itself does not and it is this, in my opinion, which causes "Pixels" to fall flat.
Pixels (2015) Trailer
Overall, I don't think this movie is too bad, though it does have its flaws. It is certainly full of life, highly energetic and entertaining. The scene in which Brenner and his friends are chasing a giant Pac-Man through the streets of New York in coloured minis really stands out to me as a fun scene (though the Pac-Man is not nearly as large as the movie poster would have you believe).
However, despite this, the movie's flaws stick out like a sore thumb, the disappointing acting, poor character development and inappropriate premise being chief among them. As a children's movie and family movie, it works and is likely to keep a child entertained throughout, though it is not a movie I would view a second time. An entertaining watch but, overall, a forgettable one.