In Films by James Hay - Cinema Editor

Pixels feels like a missed opportunity. And a big one at that.

Classic ’80s video games (somehow) manifest themselves in our three dimensional world and come down from outer space to challenge the people of Earth/America to an arcade style Battle Royale. The winner takes all, with the planet’s very existence hanging in the balance. Who could possibly save all of humanity? Only a hidden hero, a true underdog, a brave warrior with honour in his heart? Nope, Adam Sandler.

All the ingredients are there: real-life space invaders, a retro soundtrack, an extremely cool concept, brilliant animation. But, nope, Adam Sandler again. And it’s not just that he’s bad, just that he’s bad again in this film. It’s not only Sandler; Kevin James as the President of the United States. Seriously? Then there’s Josh Gad being not-quite-Jonah Hill again. And all of them revelling in the flaccid, lazy screenplay of Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling. The best moments undoubtedly belong to Peter Dinklage as the self-proclaimed gaming champion ‘Fireblaster’ but disappointingly even those few glimmers aren’t incandescent enough to drag this picture out of the darkness cast by its own bloated shadow.

The reason why TV shows such as Family Guy or The Simpsons have worked so well over the years is because they offer fun-filled mad-capped cartoon entertainment for kids and a very hearty dollop of a more satirical adult humour that weaves its way knowingly in between all the silliness. When that clever comedy is missing, as it emphatically is here, then you’re left with a movie containing fantastic looking special effects sequences cobbled together with overweight, over the hill, middle-aged men being bawdy and unfunny amidst the framework of what could, nay should, have been a classic adventure movie for all the family.

Alright, alright, it’s not all bad. The Donkey Kong finale is perfectly balanced between nostalgia for the oldies and cartoon style climax for the kiddies; it’s the best bit of the film (admittedly that’s not saying all that much). Probably because there’s barely any dialogue, just fun. If director Chris Columbus could have replicated the pace and tone of those entertaining five minutes for the other 100 and built to that enjoyable end game then he could have had audiences going nuts.

As it is, Pixels is a movie mismatch of self-indulgent, outdated (and just not that funny) comedy and childhood nostalgia from the perspective of a generation who grew up with 80s arcade games but aimed at a generation who have no knowledge, connection or interest in that era. Bizarre. And unsuccessful. Maybe in 20 years they can remake it…