Review - "Pixels"
As a person who plays video games, I did my civic duty and saw Pixels today, then formed an opinion on it. Here's that opinion.
So, look, right off the bat, I need to clear the air about this latest Adam Sandler excursion: Pixels is barely even about video games. I know, big shock, a Happy Madison movie based around video games is incompetent at actually talking about video games, but nevertheless, it's worth mentioning. If anything, the video games could have been stripped from the screenplay, and it probably would have been a better movie. Which, considering that the whole damn thing is being advertised with Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and other 80's arcade hits, is pretty lame. You don't just advertise your movie with classic games, then half-ass the "classic game" portions of your movie. That's dishonest advertising.
What is Pixels about, then? It's about Adam Sandler as a lovable loser trying to get his life together and win a woman over. Oh, wow. That's some original shit, right there, isn't it? Grade A storytelling, folks. It took two writers to come up with this winning concept. I mean, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. There's some other stuff, like aliens taking a time capsule launched into space as a threat, or President Paul Blart trying to rekindle his marriage with his unreasonably attractive wife, or Peter Dinklage wanting to bone Serena Williams, or Olaf from Frozen pining after a video game character. But none of that matters. This is about Adam Sandler being a loser and having to prove to other people that he is not, in fact, that much of a loser. That's it. That's the story.
But you know what? As far as predictable bullshit comedy cranked out by Hollywood goes? It's not awful. I mean, yeah, it's about as original and exciting as that kind of soggy Texas toast most barbeque places serve, and it really requires some suspension of disbelief to get through it. And no, I don't mean at the video game characters coming to life. I mean that Michelle Monaghan and Jane Krakowski would actually let Bobby Boucher and Paul Blart's penises inside of them. Seriously, though, I'm not saying that this is some underrated masterpiece, because it isn't. But is it really egregiously awful? Nah. Not really.
And why is that? Because, in a lot of ways, it's more fun than a lot of cynical Hollywood movies this year. There are some genuinely funny jokes in here, and unexpected little references peppered in that made me smile. Despite the whole movie feeling like nobody involved gave two fucks about any video game ever, it does feel like it was made by people who cared about making people laugh. The banter is pretty clever, Sandler does his shtick competently, Peter Dinklage turns in a hammy-in-the-funny-way performance... it made me laugh a good number of times, is what I'm trying to say. That doesn't make it "good," no, but it makes it funny, which (I assume) was the goal.
On top of that, it just feels less corporate and focus-tested than a lot of blockbusters we got this summer. Like, I would honestly say I had more fun watching this than I did Avengers: Age of Ultron or Jurassic World, and you can quote me on that, if you want. Those movies were not only predictable, but lacked any sense of fun or bombast. On top of being hackneyed, pandering to a white male aged 18-21 demographic, and just all around cinematic fucking garbage, they just didn't provide any sort of real thrill or interest. Now, Pixels is all three of the things I just mentioned, but it is, ultimately, a fun sort of movie. The action sequences are well-choreographed and visually pleasing, the comedy is pretty decently written, and the performances are all pretty zany and over-the-top in the good kind of way.
Also, if you're complaining about sexism in this movie, but letting Age of Ultron and Jurassic World get a free pass? Fuck you. I'm not saying this is a bastion of great female characterization, because it's not, but I cringed much less at how women were treated in this movie than I did in those movies which allegedly took its female roles so seriously. I mean, none of the women in this movie ever get damselled, and while that shouldn't be my baseline, this is Hollywood, so it is my baseline. Point is, women aren't treated great in this movie, but I minded it much less than I did those other two movies, where Black Widow and whoever that shitty character Bryce Dallas Howard played actually upset me. So, the whole, "this movie is the most sexist of all time" hype train just needs to stop. Much worse movies came out this year in terms of female characterization, and will come out as this year goes on (hello, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,) yet nobody's said jack about those.
And do you know why? Because people love dissing Adam Sandler. Now, look. The guy is past his prime. Absolutely. And some of his later movies? Really bad, no doubt. Like, Jack and Jill is one of the worst movies I've ever tried to watch, and both Grown-Ups are just... they're just... ugh. But he's not as memetically bad as people say he is. He's like the Nickelback of movies. People love jumping on the hate train and bashing them, but at the end of the day, they're just "average." Not great, yeah, but not awful. Sure, both Nickelback and Adam Sandler have the capacity to be thoroughly garbage, and definitely have been. But they're also pretty competent performers at what they do, and every now and again, they turn out something I like. Nickelback put out All The Right Reasons, Sandler put out That's My Boy. There's a reason they're popular, is what I'ms saying, despite what your hipster cousin tries to tell you, and they're not the fucking anti-christ. Nickelback isn't killing music. Adam Sandler isn't killing movies. Calm down. Please.
Anyway. Pixels is a video game movie barely about video games, but it's also not the worst movie I've ever seen. Don't take that as a gleaming recommendation, because it's not. But also, don't believe the hipster hate circlejerk surrounding this. If you find yourself watching this, I can almost guarantee that you won't hate it. That's not to say it's worth actively seeking out, nor is it worth paying full ticket price for. But as a rental? Or if you somehow see it for free? Yeah, give it a shot. It's pretty fun and has its moments, and in terms of Adam Sandler movies, it's the best thing he's put out in a few years.