The idea of an alien invasion picture is far from fresh when you think about it, and so is the idea that such an invasion would take a form that would be palatable to humanity at large. Right there, any film that tries to use this standard template has two strikes against it, and considering Futurama executed a similar concept in a classic episode, Pixels looked to be a sure fire strike out. Allow me to be one of the first to tell you that not only does this concept work, but it's also extremely funny and vastly entertaining.
Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was almost an arcade champion, but his defeat sent him into a slump that lasted well into his adult years. While he could use his friend, President Will Cooper (Kevin James,) as inspiration to better himself, he at least hasn't turned out anything like his other good friend – conspiracy theorist Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad). His chance to turn it all around just might be around the bend though, as an invading species of aliens have adapted our favorite 80's video games as a disguise. Even better, they're challenging us to a winner take all video game tournament, with the world as the prize. With an old rival (Peter Dinklage) and a new ally (Michelle Monaghan) in tow, the group will fight until they win, or run out of lives.
I was ready to write Pixels off as another one of those Adam Sandler movies that we all love to complain about. The trailer wasn't inspiring confidence, and again - Futurama had an extremely similar concept that it had already executed to great comic delight. Surprisingly enough, Pixels manages to do its own thing with the idea it adapted from an internet short, and it does so with a good amount of humor and action. A huge reason the film works is that both Sandler and James are playing the comedic straight men to the team, allowing co-stars Gad and Dinklage to play it to the hilt with their gags. Surprisingly, this is the most action packed Adam Sandler movie I can think of, with a fair amount of practical effects and well stages action set pieces to keep the film chugging along.
Of course, this is a Happy Madison production, so there's going to be some inevitable flaws. A predictable cameo from a Happy Madison faithful takes away from the set up to the big Pac Man sequence, women are either silent or nagging shrews, and the film is drenched in 80's nostalgia. Unlike a typical Adam Sandler film, these factors don't outweigh the film's promise, and the nostalgia factor feeds into the film's overall charm. This is, in great part, due to the even-handed direction from 80's architect himself, Chris Columbus. With Columbus at the helm, the film plays more like one of the many memorable films he helped make decades ago. He's at the top of his game, and the cast is more than up for the challenge.
While the film still sags a little bit, and wastes the talents of some of the names they'd managed to land for the proceedings, Pixels is an extremely fun time at the movies. With thrilling action, stunning visuals, and some really well timed comedy; it's the best Adam Sandler film we've gotten in a while. It may be hard to believe, but this is one of those summer movies we've all been looking for ever since we left the multiplex of our adolescence.