deconstructing trailers – PIXELS

I knew it would happen eventually: the pixelated apocalypse where videogames wipe out humanity. This metaphor is taken literally in PIXELS, a potential summer blockbuster where aliens invade Earth like it was INDEPENDENCE DAY.

The story goes like this, in 1982 NASA sent a time capsule into space, which included representations of popular videogames. You may remember how CARL SAGAN helped NASA put together that gold record of human history that they actually sent it out into space. It represented human culture with recordings of every language and examples of art (including music).

Well, imagine if some alien race out there somehow absorbed our pop culture. What would they think of us? If they observed the millions of gamers shooting each other on CALL OF DUTY, how would they judge our entertainment?

From the PIXELS trailer, it looks like these aliens invade Earth with giant pixelized representations of videogames from the early 80s. I’m not sure how the writers will explain all of this away and still keep us on board. The first suspension of disbelief is accepting KEVIN JAMES as the President of the United States. He thinks back to his younger days at the Arcade playing PACMAN and CENTIPEDE. He remembers his buddy, who was the best gamer ever, and recruits him to save the world.

Enter ADAM SANDLER. This is his first big special effects driven blockbuster. It should be a lot of fun to watch him battle these aliens. Sandler seems to focus on the family movie lately. He’s making movies dumb enough for the kids, but still enjoyable for the parent. Or at least that’s the goal. I think PIXELS has a better chance of crossing over into a territory where the whole family could actually enjoy the whole film. 

I’m reminded of the cult classic 80s film THE LAST STARFIGHTER. That story followed a top-notch gamer at the arcade. He is so good at this space ship shooter that actual aliens recruit him to join the Rebellion. It’s like playing the STAR WARS game, then flying an actual X-Wing. This movie has a soft spot in my heart. NERD ALERT 2000: This film has some of the first ever CG special FX.

PIXELS relies on nostalgia. This isn’t a knock. A lot of movies today to this: remakes, sequels, YA books, comic books, and STAR WARS for example. What worries me is if this concept will hold for 90 minutes. For me, the trailer already went a little too far over the top. I’m sure the movie could open up and tell a larger story, but for now it seems like we’ll watch pixelated videogames chases people and destroy cities. The cool visual wore off on me within the 2 minutes of the trailer. In fact, the aesthetics are pretty chessy. Then again, I assume this could be the desired effect. With CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS directing, I’m willing to wait a little longer before I totally dismiss the film. 😉

I’m sure there’s a right way to tell a story like this. I’m open-minded enough to allow this surprise. I want PIXELS to be good. I’ve been wanting another Sandler film to be good ever since HAPPY GILMORE and BILLY MADISON. I was a fan back in the 90s with SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and Sandler’s comedy CDs. He was a different animal back then: R-rated and crude. That’s why teenage me found him so hilarious. His films would gradually tone down the raunchier elements and focus on family fun adventures with a good moral.

Sandler does heavy drama in PUNCH DRUNK LOVE

I know comedians grow up, but I prefer it when they go the Chris Rock route (with TOP FIVE recently) or Tom Hanks / Robin Williams / Jim Carrey direction and try their hands at drama. Sandler was great in PTA’s PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, as well as the recent (under-rated) MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN. Although, with family comedies I suppose Sandler gets a new fanbase every 3 or 4 years. The latest batch will get a real treat with something fun and exciting like PIXELS.

 I’m not a fan of Kevin James, I couldn’t make it through PAUL BLART. I never watched his TV show. I think I saw him in GROWN UPS 1. I seem to remember thinking that should be CHRIS FARLEY. I mean, this is the 90s SNL crew right: Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Chris Farley. Right? For me, I’m more intrigued with the other co-star, JOSH GAD. I’ve enjoyed every performance I’ve seen of his, even as Wozniak in JOBS. Seriously.

The most intriguing co-star is PETER DINKLAGE (from GAME OF THRONES). And not just because of his mullet. Anyone who watches THRONES knows how delicious a villain Dinklage can be, and almost sympathetic. Let’s just say his emotions run the gamut on that HBO series. I anticipate his involvement here in a strictly comedic role.

PIXELS is one of those movies you go to when you want to turn off your brain and just be entertained. I’m hoping it delivers on that. I just want to have fun here. I’m hoping there will be tons of nerdy videogame references. And there better be more than PACMAN, KING KONG, SPACE INVADERS and CENTIPEDES shown. I don’t know if I need to see giant FROGGER or Q-BERT, but how about a version of ASTEROIDS. I’m calling that Finale now. Hehehe. 

Our heroes suit up with special costumes to fight the alien invasion. I like how tongue in cheek the battle is. Sandler and the rest of the good guys have special vehicles to thwart the apocalypse: weaponized tiny little cars. Since they’re fighting Pac-Man, our heroes are the ghosts from the videogame. Each Mini-Cooper is colour coded with specialized license plates like “Inky”. I hope the movie is creative like this throughout, putting clever spins on familiar tropes.

Another laugh worth highlighting is the videogame inventor approaching his creation. This middle-aged man lovingly steps towards the Giant Pac-Man. We’re expecting a gentle heart-felt reunion. When big yellow baddie chomps his Creator’s hand off. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Geeze.

The high concept and goofy graphics paired with Adam Sandler should guarantee box office success. A trip down nostalgia lane will make it easier to turn off your brain and just go with the dumb comedy stuff. Bonus feature: PIXELS finally gives you an excuse to share your old videogames with your kids.


 I just discovered that PIXELS is based on a short film. Click and watch it above. 

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Are you looking forward to PIXELS?

Sandler in Jason Reitman’s MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN

Have you given up on Sandler, but giving him a hall-pass here?

What other videogames should appear on screen?

What do you think of the cast assembled here?

Do you like ASHLEY BENSON – another co-star in PIXELS?

How does Benson’s character tie in to the story? A videogame hero turned human somehow? Or a cosplayer supreme?

So... What'd you think?

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