Chris Columbus’ comedy Pixels offers an amusing idea that is both too slight for a 105-minute movie and curiously underdeveloped despite the generous running time. The set-up: What if aliens saw screen footage of arcade video games circa 1982, and assumed those character shapes to attack Earth today? There’s something hilariously horrifying about seeing our world consumed by gigantic 8-bit-ish Centipedes and Pac-Mans. And it would naturally fall to the former Kings of the Arcade to defeat them.
And so it does here, where viewers get a four-pack of man-boys: Adam Sandler (works as tech support), Josh Gad (lives in grandma’s basement), Peter Dinklage (jerk) and Kevin James (inexplicably president of U.S.A.). Through a lot of lazy plotting, we see them fight and defeat the aliens — and be awarded beautiful women as trophies. It’s a curiously hollow exercise in which only a dozen people worldwide seem to notice the attacks; no explanation is ever proffered for why the aliens attack Earth and kidnap exactly three people; and the central premise of beating arcade games by memorizing patterns doesn’t hold up in the “real world” battles.
Even today, there is plenty of residual affection for those old arcade games, and Pixels drops the opportunity to deliver something more entertaining than another nerd-bro comedy starring the deeply unfunny Sandler and James. Save your quarters.