Pixels - Cinema Review

'In a film about vintage arcade games coming to life and invading Earth, Kevin James as the President Of The United States still manages to be by far the most unbelievable element'.

There have been rumblings since Pixels' first trailer was released earlier this year that the film's central concept bears more than a passing resemblance to the "Raiders Of The Lost Arcade" story featured in Futurama's third season episode "Anthology Of Interest II". The parallels were even deemed noteworthy enough that The Independent chose to compare the two in an article last month.

In truth, whilst the basic ideas are similar, shamelessly ripping off Futurama could only have benefited Pixels - some of the series' charm and humour would hopefully have rubbed off on what is a largely by-the-numbers and forgettable tribute to retro arcade games and '80s culture. Pixels is in fact based on a (very) short film of the same name made in 2010 by Patrick Jean. But, whilst the basic concept and style have clearly been carried over from the short to the 2015 feature, both the invention and charm have been left behind.

The remnants of Jean's idea that remain within Chris Columbus' film mean that Pixels does deliver some entertainment here and there in the segments focused on larger-than-life versions of vintage video games entering the real world. A chase around New York City between Pac-Man and a quartet of "ghosts" - souped-up Mini Coopers in the colours of the arcade game's infamous spooks - is perhaps the highlight. But even these segments too often feel lacking in genuine inspiration, rarely taking advantage of their international locations and delivering little in the way of surprises.

Away from the video game invasion scenes, Pixels barely has anything of worth to offer. The first act is a mess of nonsensical developments and blunt exposition to kill time until the main plot arrives. A romantic arc between former arcade game champion Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) and high-ranking military specialist Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) offers zero interest and adds nothing to the film. Sandler in the lead never bothers to make Sam anything at all memorable, the actor seemingly aware by this point in his career that the films he stars in are unfunny tosh and therefore putting in the bare minimum of effort.

With Josh Gad firing off so many nerd clichés he barely counts as a character, Peter Dinklage is the relative saving grace in support as Sam's erstwhile rival Eddie Plant, a role anyone who has seen The King Of Kong will quickly recognise as a crude Billy Mitchell caricature. Pixel's perverse pièce de résistance, however, is that, in a film about vintage arcade games coming to life and invading Earth, Kevin James as the President Of The United States still manages to be by far the most unbelievable element.

The best thing that can be said about Pixels is that it's never truly awful, something which is seemingly not true of much of Sandler's output in recent years. What Pixels is, however, is a waste of a potentially creative idea that, with the right script, cast and direction, could have offered an experience much more entertaining and satisfying than this.

Pixels is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 12th August 2015.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment