Pixels doesn’t one-up Sandler’s reputation

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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Critics are tearing apart the latest Adam Sandler movie, and “Pixels,” despite a cool premise, could not even win the week.

Pundits wonder if the end has arrived for Sandler, who has not had a Sandler-esque hit in years.


Terrible advance buzz stuck to “Pixels,” and it showed at the box office where, in a slower summer week, the film could not capture the top slot – almost unheard of for a Sandler movie.

The film should have attracted a huge swathe of early video gamers and their kids, but it simply did not. Here’s another example of a promising-looking movie crashing.

Still, don’t weep for Sandler. He has two movies coming out this year – “Hotel Transylvania 2” on Sept. 25 and “The Ridiculous Six” (a Western comedy, due Dec. 11), plus one in 2016.


As a boy, Brenner (Sandler as an adult) shows a natural affinity in the booming hobby of video games. He’s so good, he sets records on machines and heads to the 1982 Championships where he plays Donkey Kong against cocky Eddie (Peter Dinklage). Sandler loses, and it spins him as an adult into a menial job.

Back in ’82, a videotape of the contest was shot into space. Aliens discover it, think it’s a declaration of war and recreate the characters from the games – Pac-Man, Centipede, Galaga and Space Invaders, to name a few – sending them to attack Earth.

Since the original games have long been out of action and/or redesigned, only Sandler and his childhood buddies Cooper (Kevin James, now the U.S. president) and loser Ludlow (Josh Gad) can beat the invading forces.

The aliens win the first two outings, so the earthlings must win the next three or face invasion. Reluctantly, they recruit Sandler’s childhood nemesis Dinklage. Americans win twice, but the final game is Donkey Kong – Sandler’s Achilles’ heel.


The visuals are super and, if you’re old enough, it’s good fun to pick out some old school video characters in backgrounds. They are aided by some nice 3-D.

Dinklage, hamming it up as needed, has the meatiest part.

What helps “Pixels” most is its occasionally spot-on humor. There are some funny lines in the movie, and while admittedly many miss, the ones that hit are sometimes pretty good.

There’s also a soundtrack that has some nice classic rock, including songs by Cheap Trick, Queen, Loverboy and Tears for Fears.


Whenever the aliens want to communicate with Earth, they manipulate TV/radio personalities from 1982 to “speak” for them. That includes President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Roarke and Tattoo from TV’s “Fantasy Island,” and, best of all, early ’80s singing duo Hall and Oates.


Sandler seems to be sleepwalking through this movie. He displays very little emotion, and his effort is almost embarrassing.

Lots of times, jokes miss terribly; it’s painful to hear and see.

The film, made by veteran Chris Columbus, is sometimes almost amateurish, especially early on. “Pixels” is very uneven and clunks along with a final battle that is really forgettable and a letdown.

The acting is a big part of the problem. James (a guy the Movie Man likes) is quite poor. And it’s sad – painful — to see talent like Sean Bean and Brian Cox in such worthless parts.


There’s enough cussing in “Pixels” to make a parent seeing the movie with an 8-year-old wince. A boy gets pixilated and sucked up into a spaceship; that might scare little ones. But, otherwise, the PG-13 is fine.


Sandler movies are seldom great. In fact, they’re often not very good at all. “Pixels” is typical Sandler – borderline profane, sometimes witty, sometimes dumb, occasionally funny.


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