Let’s be transparent. Adam Sandler‘s recent body of work has left much to be desired, but beneath the misfires remains an inkling of hope that he could regain that fine form that had us at his comedic mercy in a stretch that began in the ’90s. People still love Adam Sandler and if a multi-film deal with a certain internet streaming service isn’t proof enough, let Pixels be your evidence that Sandler perhaps has been forgiven for the universal panning of That’s My Boy and Jack & Jill. Oh man, those were bad.
This latest Toronto-made effort is by no stretch remarkable, but what it lacks in substance, it more than makes-up for with some wow-inducing CGI trickery that will reassure parents they made the right choice. In fact, the Film at times feels as though it indulges parents more with a litany of throwbacks, more so than the young ones.
Pixels, directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire) is an ambitious effort, combining the essence of the Video Gaming and Fantasy Film realms. We see Earth under attack of iconic Video Game characters. Perhaps the Aliens took Space Invaders a little too seriously? The only ones who can save us are competitive Video Gaming Geeks Brenner (Sandler), Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Eddie (Peter Dinklage). Brenner, once a gaming Genius, who put aside his greatest passion settling for a life as a home entertainment system installer, happens also to be the Best Friend of U.S. President Cooper (Kevin James) and together they are the unlikeliest of Heroes. Add to the picture newly-single mom Violet (Michelle Monaghan), who happens to be a looming love interest for Brenner, who conveniently reports to the President.
Subplots are paper-thin and we at times feel as though perhaps a bit too much is expected of us in overlooking the absurd. Sandler and Monaghan‘s chemistry certainly is an example of this. Gad however is remarkably funny as an anxiety-riddled Ludlow, who steals the scene when the opportunity is given. Child Actor Matt Lintz also is a natural, managing to excel even when the writing at times randomly throws him into scenes against logic. We love the casting of Peter Dinklage, but even he faces challenge fitting into the at times British/sometimes Texan-sounding antagonism of Eddie.
All this aside, it is impossible not to be wowed by all the spectacle in 3-D which aesthetically is more than worth the ticket price. Its concept definitely is innovative, even if it does fail to be the heartwarming story of the Underdog who finds himself and love at once. But we cannot deny the thrill of enraged Centipedes, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong coming right at us. Make no mistake, these Video Game Characters are not all bad. A pet Cheese Puff-inducing Q*Bert is mighty adorable and we think we need one. We feel right in the moment as objects and villains are blasted into glorious pixelicious obliteration.
Sony Pictures Canada release PIXELS on Friday, July 24, 2015.