Imagine Donkey Kong meets “War of the Worlds” and you’ll get the idea behind the new Adam Sandler comedy. Question is, Will it be the end of the world or the end of Sandler’s career?
The “Billy Madison” star plays Sam, a Nerd Brigade television installer who, as a teen was part of a gang of video game obsessed kids, Will (Kevin James), Ludlow (Josh Gad). While Sam’s dreams of becoming an international gaming star were crushed when he lost the 1982 worldwide arcade game championships to Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage), his best friend Will went on to become the President of the United States. “I’m just a loser who’s good at old videogames,” he says.
Now it looks like all those hours spent saving the world from Galaga and Centipede may finally have some real life application. An alien race has misinterpreted old arcade video game signals for a declaration of war from earth. In retaliation they have created an army of invaders based on1980s style characters like PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong and, of course, Space Invaders. Sam’s plans for world domination in his “sport” may have been pushed aside, but when he gets a call from the President, he and his friends use their skills to save the world from the pixelated predators.
There might be some 1980s “Pac Man Fever” nostalgia for those who came of age during the Reagan years but as good-natured as the movie is, there’s not much here to recommend it as a comedy. There are Donkey Kong games with more laughs than “Pixels.” Sandler’s man-child with a heart of gold character is now as creaky as an arcade game joystick after a Battlezone binge.
There is an interesting story in how pop culture can have a massive impact on people’s lives, but the movie is content to stick to the Sandler template, using the inventive premise as a frame for another of the comedian’s tired romantic hook-ups. Predictable and not nearly heart warming enough to make you care about the characters, “Pixels” feels lazy, as though it was too much work to make the video game warrior aspect anything more than a sentimental gimmick. It’s Game Over for “Pixels.”