ON the one hand, Pixels recreates 1980s' video-arcade games on a large scale, that is, they're part of an alien invasion. Viewers will love seeing Pac-Man played out on the streets of New York, with the protagonists using their innate knowledge of it to outwit this game of mass destruction.
On the other hand, Pixels stars Adam Sandler and is produced by his Happy Madison company. Therefore, viewers will gobble up the screen when the arcade characters are on it, but will spit it out when Sandler is on it.
Watching him play an installer of home-entertainment devices is painful. He usually plays sympathetic down-to-earth characters (like the cobbler in The Cobbler) but he's downright boring in this film. The biggest unintended joke in this action comedy is Sandler's comedic buddy Kevin James playing the US president.
Sandler plays geeky teen Sam Brenner when the film opens in 1982. He and his plum buddy Will Cooper (James) are ardent fans of video-arcade games. Sam excels at them because he can see patterns in them, and this skill gets him to the national finals. He ultimately loses to dwarf Eddie (Peter Dingklage, who speaks as if he's still on Game of Thrones) playing Donkey Kong.
Losing a video-arcade game has such a tremendous effect on him that when we catch with him in the present day, he's a TV installer and Will's the president.
On the day Earth is invaded by aliens that had watched a 1982 video feed that they misinterpreted as a declaration of war, Sam gets cute with lonely divorcee Violet, who hired him to install a TV and game box for her teenage son.
Sam, too, is a divorce. He leans in to kiss her but she rebuffs him. He asks her if she'd kiss him if he were a rich man.
The aliens, meanwhile, drop classic arcade games from their mother ship to attack Earth mercilessly. The scene of the ship passing over Washington, D.C, and helicopters fighting valiantly against it, reminded me of Independence Day (1996). Jeff Goldblum's character didn't act on his intelligence, so he's now stuck in a rut working as a cable TV firm employee.
Sandler's character didn't fulfil his promise either, even though he went to MIT (Mississippi, not Massachusetts). He's just way too qualified to play a TV installer.
Back to Pixels. The president calls on Sam to help him out with his predicament. Sam and another geek from the 1980s, Ludlow (Josh Gad), battle the invaders with the help of ex-con Eddie and Violet, who's actually an army officer working at the White House.
They battle Centipede, Pac-Man and various video-game characters but leave the best to the last when they have to get into the mother ship (also reminiscent of Independence Day) to face the final challenge.
There's a touching scene when the real-life Japanese inventor of Pac-Man approaches the humongous terrorising character in the mistaken belief that he can control it, or get it to eat out his hand. He loses his hand in the process.
Pixels is about a nerdy blue-collar worker who punches above his weight, and gets to win a pretty brunette in the process. It's just too bad that the worker is Sandler.
1½ out of 5 stars