What happened to the world of video games? In Adam Sandler’s latest film, Pixels, game lovers of the 80s may feel a hint of warm and fuzzies with this walk down memory lane. If nostalgia is your game, the old school titles like PAC-MAN, Space Invaders, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Qubert and Galaga makes this a fun summer movie outing.
The story opens with Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) as kids in the 1980s—a time when video games were popular at arcades and as Sandler mentioned, a time when we actually had to call our friends to go out and play these games to “save the world.” Fast forward as adults and we find Brenner, a techy “nerd” specializing in installing tech gadgets, along with his childhood friends, in a unique position to come together once again. It appears that intergalactic aliens discovered video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterprets them as a declaration of war and attacks Earth. The aliens beam messages to earth warning of devastation using video games as the models for their assaults. Obviously only the gaming nerds understand the patterns and strategies so they are brought in to help face earth’s latest enemies.
Okay, I admit I went into this film with pretty low expectations, but Pixels turned out to be a great choice for my family. As a family who loves playing video games it was a chance to revisit some favourite titles with my kids and I knew it would be fun to see the streets of Toronto double for New York City. We also had brunch last year with Sandler (okay, he was sitting a few tables over with his family) when he was here filming Pixels so the kids were curious.
The characters play on the various stereotypes of gaming world: Brenner is a whiz and understands patterning of games, Cooper is all about skills having mastered the Claw games as a kid and Ludlow is the gamer that didn’t quite grow out of the fantasy world and still lives at home.
The highlight of the movie was Josh Gad delivering several ranting moments that provide hilarious and much needed energy boosts that saves the film from dropping off several times. But someone please hit the reset button on the light romantic story line woven in. Is the underdog-nerdy-guy-always-gets-the-smart-beautiful-girl theme really necessary? I get it. Someone realized that moms would be the ones bringing kids to see the movie and thought we needed something to entertain us but it’s all too predictable.
Aside from that, the film is fun to fill some downtime during the summer months. It’s a family movie that has a few underlying messages for kids.The film tries to balance the “gaming is fine… in moderation” theme as well as “anyone can take whatever their strengths are and do some good.” Sandler plays things safe, again, which is fine for a family audience.
I was more interested in how my kids would react to this film. They have played PAC-MAN but had not heard of the others. Would the nostalgia be too much or too boring for them? Not at all! But I did have a laugh when the film had a flashback to the TV show Fantasy Island with Ricardo Montalban and his side kick Herve Villechaiz, and my 10 year old turned to me and asked if that was James Bond. LOL. I was also surprised that he had caught Sandler’s character mentioning that you could download the Atari games today on our mobile devices—so guess what we did?
My kids gave Pixels a 7 out of 10.
Pixels is now in theatres. Here’s the official trailer.