Classic video game trivia with the cast of ‘Pixels’

24 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

“Pixels” review: Videogames beat Adam Sandler and Kevin James.

Pixels — the latest Hollywood comedy starring Adam Sandler and his perennial screen partner, Kevin James — is getting less than stellar reviews. “Pixels” is a collection of 1980s references in search of jokes. “Fantasy Island,” Q*Bert, Max Headroom, Loverboy – it hits many of the decade’s pop-cultural touchstones, and in such lazy fashion, it believes the mere image of a heavily mulleted Hall and Oates is worthy of a high-five.

But the core concept, which revolves around beloved video game characters like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong launching an Independence Day-style attack, is a lot of fun for anyone who frequented arcades in the ’80s. The “Billy Madison” star plays Sam, a Nerd Brigade television installer who, as a teen was part of a gang of video game obsessed kids, Will (Kevin James), Ludlow (Josh Gad). Sandler’s recent work includes the little-seen 2014 movie “The Cobbler” and the 2014 movies “Top Five” and “Blended,” while Dinklage stars as court plotter Tyrion Lannister on the HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” The movie, which banks on the nostalgia audience members would feel when seeing a large version of a video game character like Donkey Kong, continues the trend of Hollywood betting big on audiences wanting to be reminded of entertainment experiences they’ve already had.

While Sam’s dreams of becoming an international gaming star were crushed when he lost the 1982 worldwide arcade game championships to Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage), his best friend Will went on to become the President of the United States. “I’m just a loser who’s good at old videogames,” he says. This summer saw the release of “Terminator Genisys,” the newest film and a reboot of the classic science fiction film series, while this December will see the release of a new “Star Wars” film, complete with original series stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. But, if you’re curious for some of these so-bad-they’re-good movies, we’ve compiled a list, in case you want to see how measures up to the likes of Super Mario Bros. His character in the film, Brenner, a vaguely depressed installer of home theaters and whatnot, is broken and listless, thus fitting the Sandler archetype perfectly.

One reviewer called the film’s storyline “moronic,” while another found the film’s humor to “seldom hit the mark” and one critic wrote that the film has “soul-sucking emptiness… lazy.” In addition, some feel the pull of nostalgia isn’t enough for audience members to not notice when an idea for a film is similar to a very recent one. Truth be told, “Pixels” is more conceptually ambitious than typical Sandler productions, which tend to assemble the star and his buddies in a nice vacation spot with a terrible script boasting a level of sophistication on par with “Totally Gross Jokes Vol. 2.” The new film is a relatively large-scale special-effects vehicle pitting Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad and paycheck slummers Michelle Monaghan and Peter Dinklage against a space-alien attack manifest as classic 1980s arcade-game scenarios and characters.

Sam’s plans for world domination in his “sport” may have been pushed aside, but when he gets a call from the President, he and his friends use their skills to save the world from the pixelated predators. There might be some 1980s “Pac Man Fever” nostalgia for those who came of age during the Reagan years, but as good-natured as the movie is, there’s not much here to recommend it as a comedy. Wreck-It Ralph is a funny, heartwarming and subversive movie that honors the ’80s arcade games its based on without being obnoxiously self-referential about it. There are Donkey Kong games with more laughs than “Pixels.” Sandler’s man-child with a heart of gold character is now as creaky as an arcade game joystick after a Battlezone binge. Sandler foregoes his usual stable of terrible directors (Dennis Dugan, Frank Coraci, et. al.) and recruits veteran helmsman Chris Columbus to bring some blockbuster credibility to “Pixels.” Which isn’t to say it’s a well-made movie – Columbus directed the two flimsiest “Harry Potter” films, a clunky big-screen take on “Rent” and broad McComedies “Mrs.

Predictable and not nearly heartwarming enough to make you care about the characters, “Pixels” feels lazy, as though it was too much work to make the video game warrior aspect anything more than a sentimental gimmick. The story begins in 1982, when a young Brenner (Anthony Ippolito) ruled the arcade, drawing crowds as he defeated “Defender” and commanded “Asteroids.” But alas, at 13, he lost a major gaming championship to Eddie, a little person with a big ego and an even bigger feathered mullet.

So tune in when Hugh Johnson, master of our video review show Game On, and yours truly, mistress of Reaction Shot, take on the movie: shot Other than that, de-aged Jeff Bridges is a bit creepy-looking, and no matter how hard you try, Hollywood, you still can’t make Garrett Hedlund a star.

The only decent laugh in “Pixels” comes when President Cooper is berated by Girl Scouts on national TV, a lonely satirical flower in a vast field of life-choking comedy weeds. Coincidentally, the divorcee Brenner hit on three scenes prior, Violet (Monaghan), is a member, and they exchange witless barbs, until they don’t, and against all logic, reason and sanity, she becomes attracted to him. This happens maybe because he becomes a hero, but more likely because he’s played by Sandler, who always pairs himself with the most attractive female cast member, in spite of playing a character with all the appeal of a baboon with hemorrhoids. Such juvenilia is aimed at 13-year-old boys trying to stifle their laughter in their parents’ presence, but baffled by the onslaught of ’80s allusions. They’ll find no humor in the recitation of the words “Where’s the beef” or the presentation of a character from “Dig Dug.” And if I may further pummel the metaphor into oblivion, adults will deem “Pixels” to be mostly stale comedic bun and very little patty.

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