When aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth, using the games like PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede and Space Invaders as models for their various assaults. President Will Cooper (Kevin James) has to call on his childhood best friend, 0s video game champion Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) to lead a team of old-school arcaders (Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad) to defeat the aliens and save the planet.
It all goes down in PIXELS when an alien race from the planet "Volula". misinterpret video that NASA shot into space, following a video arcade championship in 1982. The video, which features video games, the likes of Galaga, Centipede, Donkey Kong, and more, is misinterpreted by the aliens, as a declaration of war, brought onto them by Earth. In the spirit of the video games previously mentioned Volula welcomes the "challenge" of Earth, thus commences a series of battles, fashioned in the ways of the old arcade games. Whereas, one quarter meant 3 lives for the players back then, the same would apply here. Each side; Volula and Earth will essentially be given 3 "lives", after which, the side left standing, will have world domination. Taking the shape of various video game characters, Volula makes the first strike by targeting a US Military base in Guam, and then the Tajmahal in India, before setting its sights on an America, being led by President Will Cooper. Initially Cooper brings on the Navy Seals, who, with the help of his long time friends, and video game enthusiasts, Sam Brenner and Ludlow Lamonsoff, hope to combat the shape-shifting arcade aliens, but as they take shape of the villainous Centipede, the aliens are much more dominant than the Seals. However, this is where video game nerds, Brenner and Lamonsoff step up, and take matters into their own hands, proving that with a little strategy, Earth just might be able to prevail. But even still, with the alien's disguises becoming much more elaborate and intimidating, Brenner and Lamonsoff call upon an old foe - the 1982 Video Arcade champ(and the guy who upstaged, Brenner, leaving him in defeat), Eddie "The Fire Blaster" Plant. Together, Brenner, Lamonsoff, Cooper, and Plant, along with an attractive Lieutenant Colonel, named Violet, they form, "The Arcaders", a team of Arcade freedom fighters, determined to win the war against Volula. But the task wouldn't be easy as first Pac-Man sets the stage for a live action version of the game that made the character famous, right in the center of New York. And if that wasn't difficult enough. the Volulans up the ante, as they pit The Arcaders, against the one game, which Brenner could never master - the one and only, Donkey Kong.
From Adam Sandler's team at Happy Madison, and Director Chris Columbus, comes this full length feature, which was based on the 2 minute and 45 second, short film of the same name, created by Patrick Jean. This was an idea both charming and nostalgic in its short form, so how does it translate when the idea is stretched out to nearly 2 hours, you ask? Well, the answer is that it does somewhat. There are definitely times where this big screen adaptation has it's moments. But then there are also the dull, more chaotic moments, that leave one scratching their heads(This is of course supposed to be about video game characters, however, before long, the film is flooded with characters beyond that realm. Characters such as Smurfs, and even Max Headroom. Where exactly do these characters fit in exactly?). Like with all of Sandler's film's the comedy within is really hit and miss, sometimes it's humorous, and sometimes it's not. However, luckily, this time around the film has something to fall back on, and that is the imaginative fantasy in which the script creates. So, when the weaker parts of the script, or comedy fall flat, the audience's attention is most of the time, quickly diverted by the film's flashy, video game inspired CGI effects, which is a good thing. But with that said, what is good for this film, here happens to also be the very thing which brings the film down a notch. Yes, the idea of having too much of a good thing, aptly applies here. Yes, the CGI created arcade monsters are fun, and wonderful to see throughout, but over time, it gets to be overkill, to the point where the film's storytelling is essentially lost in the pixelated shuffle of things. For this type of film, initially things were good, however, as PIXELS progresses, the story gets more and more lost as it goes along - almost to say, "who needs a story, when we have all of these CGI monsters coming at you? Each bigger than the last." While this approach will surely work for the kids in the audience, those who are older, are likely to find the latter parts of the film, chaotic and tangled, as it attempts to make sense. But even still, for whatever reason, it is still a somewhat ok film.
Perhaps, it's the nostalgia, or familiarity. Seeing iconic video game characters come alive in the real world, is something of fantasy, and it's fun. It also doesn't hurt that "The Arcaders", the team put together in the film, are not unlike "The Ghostbusters". In fact, i'd say that it is almost obvious that this film was inspired by the GHOSTBUSTERS characters. Making up the team are of course stars Adam Sandler, and Kevin James, along side "Game of Thrones'" Peter Dinklage, Josh Gadd and Michelle Monaghan. The characters are likable enough to enjoy in the context. In a world where Kevin James would only be the President of the United States in an Adam Sandler film, characters like Dinklage's Eddie "The Fire Blaster" Plant are the most fun. I do have a sodt spot for Actress Michelle Monaghan. She's one of my favorite Actresses. While it is indeed nice seeing her in this film, the script sadly under-utilizes her in my opinion. Monaghan is someone, who in recent years, has proven that she can hold her own with the best of them. But although her character "Violet", begins to assume a much bigger role as the film progresses, she here basically takes a back seat behind Sandler, who is up to his usual, hit or miss comedy, as is James. Elsewhere, Josh Gadd was a decent addition to the fold, as he too can be funny at times. Here, he plays the sort of younger sidekick to Sandler. and it works for him, for the most part. With all things considered, the cast isn't so bad, considering most of their performances relied on acting against, and reacting to, things that were no really there.
And speaking of "not so bad". Not so bad, is the film itself. While it is far from great, all of the negative reviews that I have read about this film, had me fearing something for worse. Yes, while it is a little bit messy towards the end, as it struggles to piece something together that is logical, you just can't help but to be somewhat won over by its nostalgic charm, as characters such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger and Q-Bert crash upon your screen.
While the film is also available in 3D Blu-Ray, the one that I viewed, was the standard edition Blu-Ray. With that said, the standard Blu-Ray looks and sounds great. The colors are vibrant and really look great onscreen, especially when it comes to the CGI. Aside from a music video, the disc features a collection of short making of featurettes.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
PIXELS is a film that is what it is. It is a Sci-Fi film that is geared for a younger/teen audience. You get what you get. It's colorful, and silly, and surely, is not to be confused as being high art. As I said, it has a lot going on, and sometimes it loses itself in all of it, but as is, PIXELS is a film that is stll somewhat decent fun. Not Sandler's best, but definitely not his worst.
Special Features include :
* Q*Bert - The adorable digital bit hopper comes to life in PIXELS!
* Dojo Quest - A look at the new classic arcade game that gave life to the unstoppable Lady Lisa.
- Game On Music Video by Waka Flocka Flame ft. Good Charlotte
Blu-ray Exclusive Special Features:
- Dolby Atmos Audio (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible)
- Six Featurettes:
* The Creator of the Machine - PAC-MAN creator Toru Iwatani was on-set and had a cameo, we hear from him about his experience and his take on PIXELS.
* The Space Invader - The winner of an arcade contest had a walk on role in the film.
* PAC-MAN - A detailed look at the PAC-MAN action sequence. From Mini Coopers and stunts to visual effects, see how PAC-MAN chomps his way into real life.
* Donkey Kong - See the cast perform stunts on a giant reconstruction of the classic platform game and watch as Donkey Kong goes from bits to BIG.
* Centipede - The giant insect attack was the creation of visual and special effect planning as well as the patience of countless performers.
* Galaga - This 80's arcade favorite leads the alien invasion, take an inside look at the attack on Guam.
This film will be released as a 3D Blu-Ray/Blu-Ray/Digital HD combo pack, as well as in a standard Blu-Ray/Digital HD, combo pack, in addition to a DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack, and Video-on-Demand, on October 27, 2015