Film Reviews, Happy Madison
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PIXELS Review: “Gamer Groans”

Adam Sandler outdoes himself once more with a horrifically sexist gamer fantasy designed to thrill idiots and provoke vomiting.


It’s hard to figure out which is more unfathomable: video game characters rendered in 3D falling from the sky and trying to murder all of humanity… or Kevin James as the US President. After an introductory flashback to the childhood of Adam Sandler, James and Peter Dinklage’s characters, Chris Columbus’ film skips forward to present day to show James as The White House’s occupant. Is he a Republican or Democrat? A representation of George W. Bush or a wholly fictional president? We don’t know, but it’s this first “major twist” that makes the rest of Pixels– even the absurd fantastical content- completely impossible to buy into.

Sandler takes the lead role (of course he does) as a disgusting, sleazy TV repairman who calls around to single mothers and leers over them. He’s a perverted pig. He’s also the hero of a family movie. He, along with childhood acquaintances Dinklage (the sole bearable actor in the film) and Josh Gad (why the f*ck are people still hiring this man?) are recruited by President Paul Blart to help the US military defeat alien invaders, who take the form of 80s arcade game characters. The manner in which the film treats arcade gaming, as if it were art cinema or classic literature, is positively laughable. Sorry to offend anyone who’s been deluded their whole life, but playing games in which you press a button to kill animated monsters isn’t an art nor much of a valuable pastime.

Pixels’ affirmative attitude to gaming is nothing compared to its attitude to women. Michelle Monaghan, the “female lead” is reduced to flirting with Sandler (as if that would happen) and being perceived as an annoying nuisance by the other male characters. Fiona Shaw appears as the British Prime Minister, and should be very ashamed of her disgracefully unfunny performance. Josh Gad’s character is shown early on to have a dangerously sociopathic fetish with a fictional game character called Lady Lisa. When she eventually appears in 3D form, played by Ashley Benson, Gad seemingly “takes ownership” of her as his “trophy”. She doesn’t utter a word of dialogue. What a great example to set for kids watching: men can own attractive blonde women who won’t complain or speak their mind and have their way with them. How vomit-incuding. Hopefully in Pixels 2 (unlikely to be made) Lady Lisa will divorce him. Meanwhile, the great Jane Krakoswki’s role is reduced to two short appearances, and Sandler’s own wife has one instantly forgettable line of dialogue.

The few moments of Pixels that could potentially be fun are destroyed by either the presence of Gad (eg. a karaoke performance of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” which rapidly transforms into something deeply homophobic) or Columbus’ horrible direction. The down-to-earth family charm that has made Sandler’s recent fare just-about-watchable is nowhere to be seen, with the CGI action in its place. Pixels really is the worst of both worlds. As one of the few critics on the internet who- one might say, fashionably- passionately defends the majority of Sandler’s work, you can believe me when I tell you that this is very horrid.

1-one-half-star

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Lucien writes on film, television and politics at LuwdMedia.com and co-hosts the podcasts Above All Else and The 99%.

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