Pixels looked like a promising ’80s nostalgia romp, but the critics have spoken: it is a terrible movie.
While Marvel’s Ant-Man continues to dominate the box office, Adam Sandler’s Pixels put in a good showing for its opening weekend, beating out both John Green’s Paper Towns and the Jake Gyllenhaal-led Southpaw.
According to Deadline, Pixels, directed by Harry Potter‘s Chris Columbus, is doing well with the predominantly male, under-18s crowd. Yet critical reviews have almost universally given the movie a failing grade.
Adam Sandler plays Sam, a TV technician who blames all his problems on that time he lost a game of Donkey Kong at age 13. Fortunately for him, his arcade game prowess is about to come in handy: aliens have gotten their hands on a NASA time capsule from the ’80s, and think the sample of video games from the era is a declaration of war.
Naturally, they proceed to send giant video game characters, including Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, to attack the
world United States, and Sam’s childhood-friend-turned-POTUS (played by Kevin James) turns to — you guessed it — Sam and his Donkey Kong opponent Eddie (Peter Dinklage) for help.
What ensues is a messy battle with cliché characters and played-for-laughs stereotypes, full of celebrity cameos and self-indulgent ’80s references that provide barely enough distraction to patch over the film’s many, many problems.
“It’s like Contact meets Armageddon meets sticking knives into my eyes,” writes Bryan Bishop for The Verge. And Bishop’s review is far from the most ruthless.
‘This isn’t ‘Gamergate: The Movie’, but…’
Most striking is the movie’s inherent sexism, which critics have been quick to point out feels more at home in an actual ’80s movie.
Variety‘s Justin Chang accuses the movie of, “more than a little residual misogyny,” seeing as all the video game players are male, with the only main female character (Michelle Monaghan) being relegated to the sidelines.
Jane Krakowski’s First Lady is criminally underused, while the video game character Lady Lisa (Ashley Benson) is literally given to Gad’s character as a trophy at the end of the movie.
“This isn’t exactly ‘Gamergate: The Movie,’ but intentionally or not, it captures the movement’s boorish ethos with dispiriting accuracy,” Chang writes in his review.
The Wrap‘s Inkoo Kang agrees, writing, “the film’s aggressive self-pity, abrasive insularity, and repellent male entitlement — however seemingly benign their iteration here — speak to the contemporary video-game culture.”
Adam Sandler ‘sleep-walks through the movie’
Sandler’s performance seems to be another sticking point for many of the film’s dissenters.
The actor-producer looks tired of his own schtick throughout most of Pixels, with The Mary Sue accusing him of “sleepwalking through the movie,” and Salon deeming him “dead-eyed,” his performance “unbearable” and “desperate.”
In an unfortunate but accurate determination of Adam Sandler’s career trajectory, Digital Trends notes that Sandler is simply, “nothing more than the man-child he almost always plays these days.”
The Hollywood Reporter goes as far as to suggest that, “Pixels puts the final nail in Adam Sandler’s creative coffin.”
Final verdict: ‘An unmitigated piece of God-awful f***ing dog sh**’
Writing for The Guardian, Nigel M Smith perfectly sums up Pixels as a, “casually sexist, awkwardly structured, bro-centric comedy.”
Mashable calls it “terrible and tone-deaf,” ScreenRant slams its “eye-rolling comedy and mundane storytelling,” The Mary Sue deems it, “one of the worst movies of the year,” and MovieBob goes all out with his final verdict: “Pixels is an unmitigated piece of God-awful f***ing dog sh**.”
With a Rotten Tomato score of 18%, it seems Pixels would be a total failure. But Adam Sandler’s name still fills cinema seats, and considering how cheap the movie was to make, we’ll have to consider it a lukewarm success.