Pixels

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Being eaten by Pac-Man seems like a far more pleasant experience.
Movie Review #989

pixels

For a while, Chris Columbus was on a roll. You’ve gotta respect the guy who comes out with “Home Alone”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, and the first two “Harry Potter” movies all within the same span of 12 years. It’s rather impressive, because let’s admit it, all four of those movies are usually considered classics by now. That heyday ended in 2002, though. It’s seems that ever since, he’s been trying to turn his target audiences against him. I’ve heard some of the biggest musical nuts complain about “Rent”; some of the most senseless romcom pushovers complain about “I Love You, Beth Cooper”; some of the most obsessive readers of YA fiction complain about “Percy Jackson & the Olympians”. Up until now, he’s been at DEFCON 2, which I guess is the level at which we pity him. “Pixels” notches Columbus up to DEFCON 1, the level of pure infuriation that might be more clearly described as what-the-f**k-were-you-thinking mode.

It’s been a long time since anyone took such a radically dumb approach to making a movie. There’s one director that can do it right. He’s dead, and his name is Ed Wood. Though, if you replace Bela Lugosi with classic video games, maybe “Pixels” resembles “Plan 9 from Outer Space” a little. The difference? “Plan 9” was so bad it was good, but “Pixels” is just plain bad.

Adam Sandler and Kevin James were once video game juggernauts. That was back in 1982. Now Sandler goes door-to-door installing flat screen TVs for a company called Nerd. The company’s name might have been funny in a Douglas Adams book, but that’s because Douglas Adams is a good writer. Anyhow, Sandler has just finished installing a TV and needs his client (Michelle Monaghan) to sign a waiver, but she’s in her closet drinking vodka and crying over her recent divorce. He stays with her to make her feel better, but ends up hitting on her. Just a few minutes later, he’s called to the White House. She drives behind them the whole time, so he thinks she’s following him, but it turns out that she works at the White House and has just been called in, as well.

But Sandler hasn’t been called in to work. He’s been called in to speak with the President of the United States, because video games have suddenly decided to invade our planet. Of course, Sandler got the 2nd place title at the video game world championship back in the ’80s, so in a time of crisis, it only makes sense to bypass the military and call him in, right? Maybe in this movie, one with enough logic to cast Kevin James plays the President. “Pixels” reminds us that there are two definitions of “development hell.” The latter, of course, refers to trying to polish up a script where Kevin James has been typecast as our commander-in-chief.

Behind the scenes, there’s a boiler room, and for the first 15 minutes, the writers are slaving away, burning coal like crazy, in an effort to make “Pixels” better than it ever would deserve to be. The script actually felt imaginative, even amusing, during this much of the movie. But the coal runs out after 15 minutes. Watching “Pixels” run on empty for the hour and a half that follows is excruciating. If it’s not filler conversation scenes with redundant jokes, it’s long, boring scenes depicting the war against video games, set to ’80s music. If there’s anything that I’d compliment wholeheartedly about “Pixels”, it’s the soundtrack. Hearing Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” not once but twice might have made “Pixels” a little more tolerable in the long run. Maybe if I had thought to close my eyes and focus in on the music, it would have made the movie enjoyable.

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