Sometimes, films are unjustly judged. Other times, popular opinion needs to be challenged. Either way, this content will likely be unpopular.
Adam Sandler is a relatively polarizing entertainer: some believe he’s a comedy genius, and others believe he’s a talentless opportunist. Here at Corner of Film, we fall squarely into the former category, (as we discussed in the CoF Podcast’s Sandlerpisode), although it is undeniable that a handful of his films are considered among the worst of the worst.
One such title is Pixels, a nostalgia-driven sci-fi-action-comedy about aliens attacking Earth in the guise of classic video game characters. It seemingly proves Sandler’s detractors’ hypothesis that the majority of his films are written with the express purpose of allowing him to work with his friends on films catered to his own interests.
However, when viewed on its own merit, Pixels is actually a genuinely entertaining film. Sandler’s joined by Kevin James, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan, and Peter Dinklage in a film that perfectly capture’s Sandler’s charm – it’s not overly intelligent, but it’s a fun and relatively predictable exercise in how to provide reliable comfort viewing. Beyond this, though, there’s actually even more that makes Pixels an objectively decent film.
Firstly, its visuals are surprisingly good. Not just in a vague, “that could be worse” sort of way, but in a genuine “I can’t quite believe that carried that off” kind of vibe. By using CG representations of 8-bit video game characters, Pixels makes for a blend of engaging action with very little genuine threat – even while characters are being killed, the juxtaposition of the antagonist’s pixelated look against the very real threat they pose is the linchpin of much of Pixels‘ comedy.
In addition, Josh Gad’s performance is perhaps Pixels‘ saving grace. While Sandler offers nothing he’s not already offered before, Gad delivers a number of beautifully bizarre moments of hilarity. While most of Pixels‘ humor is relatively brainless, it’s still significantly entertaining, even if it is predictable.
Seeing Sandler deliver yet another slight variation on his usual shtick might not have impressive critics, but it made Pixels a major box office success. This may not be enough to save the film from its general mediocrity, but solid presentation brings its sound premise to life in a way that’s both satisfying and genuinely entertaining.
Summary: It may not be particularly innovative, but a few moments of genuine comedy and action set-pieces with a unique sci-fi gimmick make Pixels generally enjoyable.
Highlights: Josh Gad’s highly inappropriate stage antics at a black-tie event are good for a laugh.