A giant yellow Pac-Man smashes out of a glass building, collides with a Mini in mid-air, and explodes into hundreds of luminescent cubes. Pixels may have exciting moments, but these fail to bolster its narrative which flops slop-handedly from corny joke to soppy sentiment.
Inspired by a fantastic two-minute avant garde short by Patrick Jean (in which classic 8-bit video game characters descend from the sky to destroy New York), the new Pixels feature film is sadly disappointing.
Chris Columbus’ action comedy fails to instil the same level of humour or depth in its arcade game characters as Disney did in 2012 animation Wreck It-Ralph. It is also neither as funny or thrilling as other recent aliens-attack-the-earth films, like Joe Cornish’s Attack The Block (2011) or the Sean Pegg-led The World’s End (2013).
As the fate of the world is placed in the hands of three gaming “nerds”, curious Game of Thrones fans might enjoy seeing Peter Dinklage reincarnated as mullet-haired criminal, but for the most part the leading cast (which consists of Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Josh Gad), serves up awkwardly hit and miss humour.
Michelle Monaghan (of True Detective and Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) is the movie’s kick-ass female, but her role as an empowered lieutenant is frequently undermined by her need to be both physically and emotionally saved. This, as you might predict, unfolds as Monaghan’s Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten becomes romantically involved with Sandler’s Sam Brenner in a sappy attempt at sentiment.
The only other women in the film are sword-weilding mute Lady Lisa (from the game Dojo Quest) who literally ends up as a “trophy” wife, and the 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actress, Jane Krakowski, who barely says two lines as president’s wife. This is not a film to inspire your daughters.
Rant aside, anyone – gamer, child or grown-up – will be able to appreciate the film’s impressive graphics, especially as the film is shot in brilliantly immersive 3D.
The pixelated content lends itself dramatically to scenes where lurid centipedes spiral from the sky, energetic Froggers leaping about the city, or Donkey Kong is set on causing chaos. There’s even a kind-of-cute, kind-of-cringey Q*bert, who offers some light relief.
A middling movie, Pixels‘ special effects make for easy watching, but if you just can’t stand any more Adam Sandler, or you appreciate seeing strong women on screen, I’d suggest you dig out your old consoles for a game of Tetris instead.
Pixels is released in the UK on Wednesday August 12. Watch the Pixels trailer: