Artifacting (Pixels, 2015)

pixels_centipedePixels is a mash of Ghostbusters and Adam Sandler’s Nostalgia machine with a lot of likeable actors supporting Sandler and James based on a clever 2:34 minute short film by Patrick Jean from 2010.

The short explanation of the film is that in 1982 the U.S. government sent out a tie capsule into space, aliens with VCR technology thought we were declaring war and attack us with video games from 1982 (or earlier).  The world’s best hope is not our military or scientists… it is washed up guys who were super good at video games in 1982.

The idea certainly could have been a lot of fun.  But the film was mashed through a standard Sandler Comedy Filter.  The jokes depend on Sandler’s 80’s nostalgia (which translates scattershot jokes based on “har, har-80’s!” with no regard to accuracy).  The whole opening sequence is set in 1982 where we meet every major character except Michelle Monaghan’s Violet as children.  The jokes reference 80’s celebrities whose careers had not taken off in 1982.  We learn Adam Sandler’s Brenner is a prodigy at video games, Kevin Jame’s Cooper is only good at the claw game, Ludlow (Josh Gad) has no friends and Peter Dinklage is a gaming champion.  Brenner almost wins the championship, but in the end loses to Eddie.

Apparently, this destroys Brenner, and when the film picks up he is a entertainment system installer, which is how he meets skilled scientist and 2nd Lt. Violet, who is getting a divorce.  After a failed attempt to kiss Violet, the two spend the movie sparring in that generic “these people hate each other but are really falling in love” fashion.

The movie is very generic in every fashion.  The script has no life, and relies on cheap stereotypes (in an Adam Sandler film?!).  Gad’s Ludlow is a creepy conspiracy theory nut who admits to having kidnapped people.  He is also obsessed with Lady Lisa, the heroine of Dojo Quest.  Dinklage’s Eddie is a prisoner who wants a threesome with Martha Stewart and Serena Williams as a condition of helping save the world.

pixels-teamThe effects are good (which is not surprising).  The cast is promising (Dinklage has the best performance) yet ultimately everyone feels like they are just playing expected roles.  Monaghan is the love interest and mom, Brian Cox is Angry Old Man and Josh Gad yells then trails off quietly in his delivery…  Adam Sandler is his usual failed schlep and Kevin James channels his Bumbling Man Character through the president.

The film makes “odd” choices…one example is Lady Lisa.  All the alien video game warriors are pixelated.  Every single one.  Except Lisa.  And the only reason I can gather is that she is supposed to be a hot woman.  So, who cares, right?  Sexy trumps your established rules.

This film is supposed to be a comedy.  I did not laugh once.  Not even a chuckle.  I did smile a couple times where the film moved up in level to mildly amusing.  But the film is genuinely awful.

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