dir: Chris Columbus
It’s not in my nature to put the boot in when someone’s already down. It’s not really in my nature to put the boot in at any time, really. Being a Buddhist and all, being fairly squeamish and not ever liking getting my boots dirty, I don’t like causing pain to anyone or anything. Least of all my own foot.
I wish the people who made this flick had the same impulse.
Pixels has already been lambasted as being one of the shittiest flicks to come out in 2015, and that very consensus is what made me think the flick deserved a second chance, or at least a first viewing on my part. If anything, I would argue that the almost universal condemnation wasn’t universal or condemnatory enough.
Pixels is fucking terrible. It masqueraded as a kid’s flick in order to trick parents into taking their kids along, at least in Australia when it was released during the school holidays, but, to sound like a Concerned Parent writing a letter to a Murdoch newspaper to express my outrage simultaneously in a tizz and in high dudgeon, this flick is not for kids.
What I mean is, while the makers certainly intended for it to be watched and enjoyed by the dumbest potential mass audience, it’s not in actuality a kid or family movie.
It’s squarely aimed at people, as in adults, who are middle-aged now, who might have fond memories of ancient video games, but who are also a) fat, disappointed men who feel like life left them behind and that their ex-wives are total bitches and they resent young, attractive women because they generally won’t sleep with them anymore unless money is exchanged for services rendered.
Does that sound like a flick appropriate for kids? It should come with a classification of OCBG instead of PG, which this had, which is somewhat mystifying. Nothing else would explain why there are so many references to ‘slut seeking missiles’ otherwise.
OCBG isn’t a real classification acronym, though it should be, because it represents an ever-expansive audience for movies, in fact outside of kids and old people, and the women who only went to the cinemas in the last three years in order to watch Magic Mike in its sequel, it’s about the only reliable demographic ensuring monetary success
‘Old Comic-Book Guys’ as a demographic is why so many terrible films get made, but I don’t blame them. Blaming them, in a way, would be blaming the victim. As incredulous as I am that everything seems to be made in order to leverage more and more money out of their wallets, it’s not their fault that they are pandered to so often. Marvel would never have existed as long as it has until the cinematic era had it not been for the undying loyalty of OCBGs.
I say this as someone who pretty much looks like the exact embodiment of what this criticism entails. I get all the 80s references. I spent obscene amounts of time and money on computer games both then and now. I always had trouble with the ladies, because, naturally, someone who interacted successfully with the people around them (or, you know, actually got laid that often) wouldn’t have had the time or inclination to obsessively play level after level of some pointless game or otherwise read about the exploits of Zarthross from Azambad and his kooky boobed sidekick Zampirilla.
And lest this catalogue of error seem like I consider myself above it all or that I’ve grown past it, err, no, that’s not the case either. It’s still fully within my wheelhouse, because, really, what else is there? Fixating on current affairs programs and watching only documentaries about World War II or the agricultural methods of 14th century Mongolian tribes seems even more pointless, even if it would be considered to be more worthwhile or important.
And fuck the environment too. What’s it ever done for me, apart from let me live and breath?
No, I’m more like the shlubs depicted in this film; someone who showed early promise of greatness who nevertheless got ground down and broken by an indifferent universe. Unlike the characters here, I’m not looking for revenge. Just for some joy every now and then.
The prime shlub here is of course played by Adam goddamn Sandler. This character is no different from virtually every other Adam goddamn Sandler that has ever existed in every other of his mediocre movies.
Wait, wait, this is going to blow your mind: I don’t actually hate Adam Sandler and everything he stands for. Sure I find him lazy, and sure I despise the stock-standard passive-aggressive borderline personality disorder zero-impulse control version of masculinity that he toxically represents, but I have found him funny in the past and I still occasionally find him funny even now.
Not in this flick, though, oh boy, not in this flick.
A younger version of the jerk character he plays here called Sam – everyday everyman Sam – is in some incredibly important video game tournament back in the 1980s, the heyday of arcades. Sam is the greatest player he’s ever encountered, so naturally he’s entitled to win.
A loathsome dwarf jerk comes along and beats him. All the hopes and dreams Sam had nurtured regarding his future before this tournament fly out the fucking window, because he lost at Donkey Kong to a dwarf.
This sad, broken ten-year-old grows into a sad, middle-aged Adam Sandler, who’s bitter about his wife leaving him, bitter about his best friend becoming President of the United States despite looking, sounding like and being played by goddamn Kevin James, and bitter about losing that video game tournament 30 or so years ago.
He works installing AV equipment and being a computer tech, which is not a bad job to have these days. The film implies he should have been the next Bill Gates or Zuckerberg, but who even knows why. It’s irrelevant, like almost everything that happens in the flick.
Ripping off a premise that itself was a rip-off anyway, for some insane reasons an alien race somehow sees images from 1980s video games, decides they are an interstellar challenge or declaration of war, decides to replicate the visual representations of these games and their rules, and attack Earth with them.
It’s dumb by any standard, but it’s dumber still to try to convince the audience that the only person that could save the world is Adam Sandler and some other people, all of whom could play computer games back in the day, as if no-one else could.
It’s part-lame Ghostbusters riff, part-nerds-will-inherit-the-Earth bullshit, but most insulting of all is the idea that Sandler can play a nerd, when he’s always been the complete antithesis of one. His interactions with every character in this flick is kinda hostile, but the vibe with the love interest (Michelle Monaghan) is particularly juvenile and grating. It’s meant to be, I’m reasonably sure, like a kindergarten-level antagonistic thing, but the whole attitude towards women in this flick is pretty much what you’d imagine an angry eighty-nine-year-old castrato thinks is reasonable.
Josh Gadd is meant to play somehow the ‘worst’ kind of nerd in this, someone so completely dysfunctional and creepy (who still lives with his grandmother probably in a basement somewhere) that every line of dialogue has to be delivered like he’s somehow masturbating while talking. Looking at him or hearing him talk caused me physical pain. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but it was really eating away at my insides, wishing that Death itself would either come for me or him.
Of course the flick is absurd, and everything that happens in it is absurd, but it didn’t work for me because the absurdity isn’t used to further the plot or the action to some enjoyable outcome: it’s used to satisfy some strange wish-fulfilment bullshit that strange middle-aged guys harbour and need to be satisfied by watching movies at the cinema.
A character (gee, spoiler alert, it’s the evil dwarf character), is revealed to have somehow cheated way back in the day at that competition that fucked up Sam’s life, but also cheats in this ‘battle’ against the alien menace in the Pac Man section. Eh? What? How? It saps the will to live, it does, when I expend whatever little brain power I posses on questions like these.
There is some strange blonde bimbo character that doesn’t even have anything to do with the games of the era or to do with anything that makes any relevant sense, but she’s there so that, what, guys that fantasise about having sex with video game characters have something to feel excited about?
Who are these pathetic people and why would you pander to such feeble scumbags?
The worst insult? Making me hate Peter Dinklage, who plays possibly the worst character not only in this flick but of any flick this year. And, you know, I’m no prude, but having me sit there in the audience with my daughter next to me as his repugnant character screams “Shitballz!” out of the screen was probably one of the lowest cinematic moments of my life, ever.
Thanks, no really, thanks a fuck load, you jerks.
The biggest, most mortifying element for me, adding so much insult to so much injury, after the credits my daughter turned to me and said, “That’s possibly the greatest movie I’ve ever seen.” She loved the action and thought it was hilarious.
I hate you, Chris Columbus and Adam Sandler, even though the Buddha tells me not to, I hope you both die in a Tijuana brothel fire. Your movie made me a worse person, and that I cannot forgive or forget.
1 the only time I laughed was the gag with the creator of Pac Man talking to his ‘son’ out of 10
“Somebody kill this stupid bitch!” – kid-friendly entertainment - Pixels