Pixels (2015)

I was really excited to see Pixels because I wanted to spot a name in the credits! (Go tell Briana she’s great and the movie was great on her Tumblr or Instagram!) I later learned that this movie is actually based on the short film of the same name, which is a cool watch in and of itself.

Going into the movie, I didn’t really know what to expect. I hadn’t really watched many trailers for it and just understood that it was about aliens that attack the Earth with classic video game characters. When I met my friends there and they indicated low expectations because it was an Adam Sandler movie, I thought, “Huh. I didn’t know Adam Sandler was in this.” His movies have been getting pretty tiresome, and some patterns still occurred in this movie that I wish would just stop like:

  • Adam Sandler’s character is…
    • … a genius but, at the moment he is called to action, is not currently fulfilling his potential.
    • … somehow able to woo a superbly beautiful woman with not much else but witty jokes and, if applicable, being kind to a child.
    • … actually in a cool story and situation and the romantic subplot is unnecessary.
  • His equally goofy friends, in contrast, do achieve their full potentials and are crazy successful.
  • The female love interest has shallow character development but looks banging and has mad bants with Adam Sandler so I mean whatever.

But with Chris Columbus directing, I figured it wouldn’t be that bad. And I was right, I liked the movie a lot more than I expected I would. Pixels also turned out to be REALLY funny! I laughed out loud a lot and at some points, was barely able to hold myself together in the theater. Gotta give the writers mad props for making this movie so hilarious. Especially withe the dialogue. Some moments were a bit corny/cheesy/too much/too predictable but I was laughing so hard that I let it slide.

Thoughts at the DC screening: Typical district traffic.

First of all, there was a lot more 80s nostalgia than I anticipated – in a good way. If you’re a fan of 80s pop culture in addition to those classic arcade games, you’re definitely going to love this movie. The aliens wound up communicating with Earth by using 80s video footage, so you could see Hall and Oates, Madonna, maybe even your favorite Fantasy Island characters. The soundtrack was also jam-packed full of great 80s tunes for you to bop along to. Definitely check out Pixels if you’re a big fan of the 80s.

I’m wondering how expensive this movie must have been and how they were able to get the licenses to all of these properties. I mean, there was Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Tetris, Space Invaders, Q-bert (which Sony actually does own), Duck Hunt. I’m guessing maybe the pop culture references via video footage are fair use after 30 years? (Dang… 30???) It was pretty cool to see all these classic video game characters together in one place, and to see how the VFX team brought them to life.

Donkey Kong in Columbia Pictures' PIXELS.

To really enjoy this movie, I say just strap in, prepare to laugh at jokes, and enjoy seeing classic arcade game being played out in real life. Enjoy Peter Dinklage’s hilariously absurd character, who was easily one of the highlights of this movie, and Josh Gad’s consistent role in Hollywood as the awkward goofy one. Don’t worry too much about the crazy caricatures of British people or how Michele Monaghan’s character lacked so much depth that she could have been replaced with anyone and it wouldn’t have mattered as long as they could smile, scowl, recite lines, and wear a dress.

Peter Dinklage with a mullet, though

Just enjoy the magic of these games being brought to life and being done so in a really funny way, and you’ll have a good time, really.

Side note: Is the person who keeps clapping loudly and inappropriately at these screenings I attend maybe the same person? There was someone clapping after the actor portraying Toru Iwatani was introduced as Mr. Iwatani and this person clapped for a full 30 seconds. S/he also clapped when Queen’s “We Will Rock You” was playing in the background of a scene. For the entire duration that the song played, about a minute. What was happening here, why were you doing this…

All in all, really solid movie. Super funny, great effects. It’s not perfect, the plot is a little mehh at times, but I liked it more than I thought I would and recommend it, for sure.

Pixels comes out Friday, July 24. Spoilers below the trailer.

LEMME STRAIGHT UP just jump into some issues I had with this movie:

  • LOOSE ENDS? The one thing I love about filmmaking is how every scene is important and matters by the end. There’s a scene where the Duckhunt dog is sent down as a trophy. This is then never addressed during the rest of the movie, not even in the credits scenes? Q-bert is there but who cares if there’s an alien Duckhunt dog just wandering around. Sloppy work.
  • Dumb “Lady Lisa” story ending. Josh Gad’s character, from childhood, has a crush on a videogame character that — because he is a complete nutjob — never went away and developed into an obsession. So, when the aliens send down this video game character to help destroy the Earth, there’s the obvious gag of Josh Gad going all “no I love her I can’t blah blah”. But then there’s this weirdness where he’s able to be with her. This pixelated alien creature thing. That is a manifestation of a fictional character. I DON’T KNOW it was a huge stretch even within the world of this movie and I really hate when a movie is able to do world-creation and then STILL does something out of left field within a fantasy/sci-fi universe. Ugh. Ughhhh it was just so cheesy and gross at the end of the day, I didn’t like it.
  • Ladies in this movie got majorly shafted. Jane Krakowski played the First Lady and had I think… ZERO LINES? Why bother even having someone play First Lady if she’ll get so little screen time and no lines within that screentime? And Michele Monaghan’s character was fun at first and quickly became a male gaze object. She also randomly does flips and physically impossible CGI-ed feats at the end because why the hell not. I don’t know, it was just not a great movie for women. Definite Bechdel fail.
    • Are we also just not going to talk about how Kevin James is president? Just… not at all? No mention of this at all? He just is? Okay then.

Otherwise, I really loved a lot of the comedic moments in this movie. Peter Dinklage in whatever weird affectation his character was speaking with, demanding a threesome with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart in exchange for helping the government fight aliens? Mullet and all? COMEDY GOLD. Josh Gad’s character could have easily been too much, but he’s really good at playing these characters right, even as a conspiracy theorist loser nerd, because there’s a scene where he starts yelling at and demeaning Navy SEALs and it’s too good.

(But really, if Peter Dinklage wasn’t in this movie, I wouldn’t have liked it half as much.)

Also, GoT fans get to see Peter Dinklage and Sean Bean in one movie! (Although I don’t think they share any scenes.) And SPOILER: Sean Bean doesn’t die! (I think.)

I took some issue with the portrayal of Toru Iwatani in being a little too stereotypical Japanese-u but I’ll let that slide. I guess.

Still not too mad about the whole movie, it was just a few moments that made me roll my eyes to the back of my head. But then there were moments like Josh Gad’s character yelling “YOU CRACKER” at his grandmother in another room and I just laughed so hard I didn’t stop until that scene was over, more or less. You win some, you lose some.

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