It isn't easy to make a film based on any one single video game, leave alone making a film that incorporates multiple arcade video games from the 80s. But that is exactly what PIXELS is all about.
The film starts off in 1982, with two kids Brenner (Adam Sandler) and Cooper (Kevin James) heading out for a fun night at the video arcade. While Brenner excels at gaming, Cooper on the other hand is a master of the 'crane game'. As they continue to play, Cooper convinces Brenner to enter the World Arcade Championship. At the event, the MC tells everyone that a time capsule will be launched into space containing elements of the present culture filmed at the championship. Meanwhile, Brenner and Cooper meet Ludlow Lamonsoff, a weird but brilliant kid who's in love with Lady Lisa (the main character of the game Dojo Quest). After Brenner gets through every game, he faces hotshot gamer Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) in Donkey Kong. However, Brenner loses out to Eddie in the final tie breaker match.
Cut to 2015, where Brenner works for a company that installs software, Cooper has become the President of the United States who is mocked in the media. While each of them continue to struggle with their daily issues, a military base in Guam is attacked by unknown drone army. Calling for assistance Cooper calls in Brenner, who states that the base was attacked by aliens based on the designs of drones from the game Galaga. However, Brenner's observations are dismissed by the assembled heads of military divisions as nothing but fantasies. Later, Brenner drives his van back home to find Ludlow in there. Ludlow brings Brenner back to his home where he says that he received a message using manipulated footage of 80's icons like Ronald Reagan and Madonna to explain the alien's plans: since they perceived the items in the time capsule as a declaration of war, they are using the video games as a challenge, giving the people of Earth three rounds to fight back or it's game over for everyone. Armed with this footage, the duo approach Cooper and determine that the next attack will happen in India.
However, despite the warning that was taken lightly, Cooper and his generals are stunned when the aliens attack the Taj Mahal with Arkanoid paddles. Post the attack, Brenner and Lodlow are brought in to 'train' soldiers on how to fight the alien invaders, but will the duo manage to get the seals up to speed on how to battle video games of the 80s or will Earth fall prey to the giant Pac-Man is what completes the rest of the film.
We entered the film expecting to see a film that would bring back memories from childhood about the games we spent hours playing. Add to that, a story narrative that features these same games invading earth with a real life hero battling away to save the day, PIXELS had all the right ingredients to be a worthy film. However despite the film covering some of the most popular games in the 80s and managing to encompass a true to life feel of playing them, somewhere down the line, PIXELS begins to lose track and turns into yet another Adam Sandler film with the usual antics and gags. There are some truly funny moments in the film that help change your mind and keep you in your seat, but they are few and far between.
Coming to the performances, Kevin James has quite literally nothing new to offer, he is still from his King of Queens days playing the clumsy fat guy. Josh Gad is just too loud, though he does pull of the nerdy introverted geek with an obsessive love for a video game character perfectly; we fail to understand why he is always screaming. With Sandler, James and Gad offering nothing new, our hopes were pegged on the 'Game of Thrones' star Peter Dinklage who has more than once wowed us with his talent. But unfortunately Dinklage too is sadly a letdown, though he does manage to elicit a few laughs. Michelle Monaghan as Violet seems more like an after-thought addition with her role being resigned to that of a damsel in distress.
Despite the several loopholes, PIXELS makes for a simple fun watch. The visuals do play a big role in the film, adding a much needed novelty factor that coupled with the giant Pac-Man roaming on the streets is quite a sight. But what works best for the film is that PIXELS does not try to be anything more than just a fun time.
On the whole, PIXELS is light, fun watch for the fans of the 80s arcade games. Don't expect anything spectacular from it though.