********* 5 out of 10 *********
Director: Chris Columbus
Actors: Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Monaghan
A bit too often, Hollywood comes up with movies that hold no rhyme or reason. On a silly pretext of a story, millions are ploughed in, and then the audience is invited to join in the madness. But even silly movies have their charm at times; just think of Dumb and Dumber which could make us smile and laugh with the antics of its buffoons, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Even Adam Sandler has given his fair share of comedy movies which had some of the most bizarre scripts, yet worked. Unfortunately, the smartness with which these “un-intelligent” movies used to be created seems to be fading. And so we are left with flicks like Pixels, that hold the potential to be entertaining, but choose to be lazy in their approach, and die down with a few decent laughs here and there and some odd moments of excitement.
Pixels begins in the year 1982 when two young friends step into an arcade where they discover that one of them is amazingly good at video games. In the same year, a time capsule is launched into space containing elements of pop culture, including footage from the arcade game world championship, as a means of communication with extra-terrestrial beings. Switch to the present age, and the video game genius, Sam Benner (Adam Sandler) has a less exciting job, whereas his friend, Will Cooper (Kevin James) is the President of the USA. Things are about to get strange though as our planet comes under attack from aliens who, believing that the time capsule of 1982 was a declaration of war, send to Earth creatures that look like ones from the age-old video games. Sam Benner along with other video game prodigies (Josh Gad & Peter Dinklage) become the last hope for mankind.
The story by Tim Herlihy is nothing to brag about, but it does have a decent funny idea underneath. Centipedes attacking from the sky, and Pac-Man creating havoc on our lands, makes for an interesting concept worth considering. Sony Pictures did consider it and got Chris Columbus to direct it. Now, Chris Columbus is the one who has cult hits to his credit like Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire, and then of course, he gets the credit for getting the Harry Potter movies off the block, having directed the first two in the series. When he took on the sci-fi/comedy muddled plot of Pixels, you would have expected that he would make it fun, interesting, and a bit believable, if I may add. It’s quite a pity that Columbus does very little to achieve those goals. Pixels takes time to get a tempo going, but even then, it makes little effort to maintain it. The story keeps drowning in a pool of stupidity, waiting for someone to throw a line, which never comes. There are some moments of joy, like the scene with Pac-Man on a rampage, and if the film-makers had worked hard enough to keep those levels of excitement for most parts of the film, Pixels would have been worth the ticket price. The special effects have been nicely worked on though, a plus point for the movie, and might be more enjoyable to watch in the Imax version.
The acting of Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Josh Gad is as mundane as they come. Sandler, who is supposed to be the lead actor in the film, seems to have just woken up from bed and walked to the sets to deliver his lines, every single day. He hardly seems to be enjoying his work; there is no excitement, no mirth, no intensity in his acting. Just a shadow of his former self. Kevin James and Josh Gad do not help things either; the former trying too hard, the latter screaming a bit too loud. Their jokes are largely cliched, and apart from a few moments, they would hardly get you to laugh.
In the midst of all this, there is one Peter Dinklage. This is the kind of movie you wouldn’t have expected the popular and highly talented Dinklage to pick up, but I am glad he did, because he brings a much needed spark to it. There aren’t enough words to compliment him, because in such a movie, where he would have seen everyone around him making the least efforts, Dinklage still gives us a character worth remembering. He talks with a brashness, has an interesting look, and adds a lot of confidence and zing to the character which makes me think that having Dinklage as the lead actor would have done the movie good. Michelle Monaghan, working for the US Government in the movie, has not much to do in terms of her role, contributing a bit to the fight in the finale. She is a better actress than what this movie makes her out to be. Brian Cox and Sean Bean are also pretty much wasted here.
It’s quite sad that even in this competitive space, some believe that a half-hearted effort would turn out to be good enough. Pixels is riddled with those who probably wanted to be somewhere else other than on the sets of the movie. But a true gem like Peter Dinklage does stand out in such a crowd, and he’s the only good enough reason to catch this flick. And Pac-Man, of course!