Children who are addicted to video games may not realize it, but they’ve been waiting their whole lives for Pixels. Now, when parents or teachers tell them to stop playing video games because “it rots your brain!” or “you need sunlight!” kids can say, “Remember Pixels? Kids like me saved the world!”
My fellow adults, the kids have a point. Pixels is a silly comedy that has an ingenious premise, one that speaks to gamers young and old who spend way too much time playing video games. In 1982, the U.S. sent a space probe time capsule — including some arcade games — into orbit. The extraterrestrial lifeforms that received the probe interpreted it as a declaration of war. Not good. Now Earth is being attacked in the form of Galaga, Centipede, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Defender and other classic games. This means the people best suited to combat the attacks are the video game champions of the early ’80s, who are now a motley bunch of adults, to say the least.
Sam (Adam Sandler), an audio/visual installation guy for a company called “Nerd,” was runner-up at the ’82 world video game championships to Eddie (Peter Dinklage), who calls himself the “Fireblaster.” The Fireblaster is now in prison. Ludlow (Josh Gad), now a conspiracy theorist who believes Jack Kennedy fired first, is still in love with a game character named Lisa (Ashley Benson) and is a legit wacko. The only guy who made something of himself after video game nerd-dom is Will (Kevin James), who happens to be the President of the United States. Just imagine bumbling comic Kevin James as president — if you find that thought amusing, you’ll probably enjoy this movie.
An alien takeover of the world is palpably real, and these “Arcaders” are called in when the Navy Seals and other military forces fail. Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) excels at combining heart and humor with visual effects action, so it’s a telling sign of the film’s overall quality that we laugh throughout and enjoy the substantial effects work, which looks appropriately old-school while being sleek and cutting-edge. Keeping things light, Columbus allows us to embrace the love story of Sam and Violet (Michelle Monaghan), whose son Matty (Matt Lintz) considers modern games Halo and Call of Duty “classics.” How little he knows. Cameos from Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Serena Williams, Dan Aykroyd and Jane Krakowski also keep smiles coming.
Sure, it’s stupid. Of course it’s stupid. But if you go into an Adam Sandler comedy about ’80s video games expecting the secrets to the universe, perhaps the stupid one is looking at you in the mirror. Let’s call Pixels what it is: A funny lark that’ll remind every ’80s child of their youth which is enjoyable enough for today’s kids, many of whom have never heard of the games featured here.