Film Review: Pixels

This may put me in a minority but I like Adam Sandler. I will admit he’s never going to win an Oscar or create a genre defining film but I went through my teenage years surviving on his movies. The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison all repeated over and over and over, while The Waterboy, Little Nicky, Big Daddy and 51st Dates were all happily enjoyed. I will even go as far as to say that his 2002 remake of Mr Deeds is a film that I adore (although that’s as much down to Winona Ryder as Sandler).

However, over the last few years I have just found his films becoming more and more washed up and more and more shambolic. So much so, that I have actually started to not bother with them. I completely ignored Blended, and when I look at the last five films I have seen by him (Click, Reign Over Me, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Bedtime stories) I don’t think I actually enjoyed any of them, and certainly not enough to bother watching them again.

Rob Schneider & Adam Sandler - Pixels

My problem is that while Sandler has always surrounded himself with his friends – Allen Covert, Rob Schneider, Steve Buscemi, Peter Dante all regularly cropping up – I never felt like they were being shoehorned into his films. I always felt that the story came first, and then, the characters would be handed out. They were just repetitive actors playing parts in various stories. But it now feels more like Sandler writes the stories around his friends. That parts are invented or made to allow him to bring along his mates. It doesn’t actually matter how disjointed or stupid the plot becomes because it’s no longer important, it’s now purely about having fun with his friends.

Sadly, I thought Pixels would just be another example of this. Even with fewer of his “friends” in the cast and with Chris Columbus directing, who has a real pedigree at creating wonderfully enjoyable films (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Harry Potter Franchise), I still couldn’t shake the fear that Pixels would just descend into an implausible mess – especially as it includes Kevin James who is the recent “ever present” in Sandler’s downfall – and with Rotten Tomatoes slating it (it’s at 16% as I write) and every review detesting it, it appeared my fears were realised.

But my Mother wanted to see it. I’m not exactly sure why, but she did, so we headed off to our local Multiplex, expecting 106 minutes of dull, immature disappointment and instead, found a surprisingly silly, implausible but ludicrously fun film.

Adam Sandler - The Wedding Singer

As the opening sequences ran it honestly felt like I was back in my teens watching Sandler’s earlier work. The tone and style really reminding me of The Wedding Singer and this is carried on through the entire film. While Sandler does look a little mature and visually a bit old now for the comedic narrative he still manages to convince and handle it in a way that meant I became totally lost in the story and wrapped up in the film. Even my fears that the film would be a “jobs for boys” affair with his friends were unfounded and it really did feel like it was back to a story designed around its plot rather than around Sandler’s companion demands.

That doesn’t mean it’s all brilliant though. There are times throughout where you can see that the cast, especially Sandler, don’t quite believe in it fully. Their eyes revealing a lack of conviction to what they are really doing and the idea of Kevin James being a bumbling fool while at the same time President of the United States is a little hard to accept. I also found Peter Dinklage just repulsive. He’s meant to be the ‘nasty’ balance to Sandler’s ‘nice’ but he’s just appears rude, self centred and cheap. He’s the personification of the fart joke and as a result, he felt too out of place with the tone of the film to do anything other than annoy me. And I won’t even start on the stereotyping nonsense provided by Sean Bean and Fiona Shaw.

Peter Dinklage - Pixels

The film also feels a little bit unpolished and unloved in places. On more than a few occasions things just looked like they had been rushed. Special effects would look a bit flat or scenes/props would appear a bit cheap. Visually it felt like they’d pinched every penny and it left the film looking a bit rough around the edges. None of that really matters though, because aside from the slightly unpleasant character traits of Dinklage, the rest of the films problems only matter if you ask too much or take it too seriously, because, at the end of the day Pixels is a simplistic, silly film of retro nostalgic implausibility.

While I was never roaring with laughter, Pixels constantly had me happily chuckling away and the quality of Chris Columbus behind the camera meant that the film even managed to provoke emotions in me I didn’t expect. I felt anxious or worried, happy or relieved as dictated by events on screen and that truly is surprising for a film with so little depth. It is very much the kind of film that requires you to simply turn off your brain, accept that it’s got plot holes, a poorly developed idea and the odd bit of unnecessary sexism and instead, accept that it’s just a bit of fun. When you do that the result isn’t the next in the line of “egotistical bro-centric comedy, starring Sandler and some of his buddies” but rather a film that actually is surprisingly all right.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.