In 1982, in the hopes of establishing peaceful communication with extraterrestrial life, NASA launches a time capsule into outer space containing images and footage of Earth life and culture. However, the aliens misinterpret enclosed video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war. They attack the Earth using the games as models for their various assaults including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Space Invaders, Arkanoid and Tetris. Their technology creates voxels that change form and are capable of turning any form of matter into more of itself.
This film is both a video gamer geek fest and homage to the early 1980s. Two childhood friends and their rivals’ paths intersect during a video game tournament and the result haunts Sam (Sandler) who now is a home theater installer. His best friend Will is now President of the United States. The two team with a former wonder kid, Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Sam’s childhood nemesis, Eddie (Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage) to defeat confused aliens and save the planet. The modern-day “GameBusters” are joined by a broken-hearted military officer, Violet (Michelle Monahan), who provides the eye candy and romantic angle of the story with Dinklage and Gad providing most of the comic energy.
Despite the three words that have sent chills up film critics spines, “Happy Madison Productions,” Pixels benefits from barely exceeding expectations that were so low that ANYTHING would have been an improvement. Sandler who has been responsible for stink bombs such as Blended, Grown Ups 1 & 2, The Cobbler, Jack and Jill and several others, finally makes a film that at its best can be described as “cute “ While it’s far from great, it is not on the level of some of his recent disappointing work.
Sandler remains a polarizing figure in films sporting a limited talent foundation that needs a strong supporting cast around him while minimizing his involvement and relegating him to supporting status. He also dials down much of his goofy, nonsensical persona that helped him find early success and has opted to act as more of the straight man for Dinklage and Gad’s comic hijinks. Fueled by videogame and 80 nostalgia, Pixels surprisingly is one of the few Sandler films that won’t have him in the cinematic witness protection program. I guess it’s official: Hell has officially frozen over!!!