You know, Adam Sandler doesn’t have a lot to prove to anyone about, well, anything. He was a cast member of SNL back when it wasn’t nearly as highly-regarded as it is today yet still managed to shine in the presence of Chris Rock, Phil Hartman and Chris Farley. He’s had what I’d call a pretty successful movie career as well. Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison stand as two of my favorite of his films and are ones I watch at least once a year. Yes, he’s had some ups and downs and more recently – downs. I feel he’s gotten lazy and complacent with his recent roles and I’ve often wondered if he showed up to the set of the Grown Ups films saying “Hey, is it cool if I just wear what I’m wearing now for the movie?” But I have to say that for a guy with nothing to prove, I was actually pretty impressed when I saw he was going to be in Pixels. Directed by Chris Columbus (more on him later), this movie actually made Sandler seem to, well, act again. He’s made me laugh over the past few decades, so I’m sure could do it again. But for a movie based on classic arcade games – would it work or would it be Game Over (I’m clever like that)?
Sandler stars as Brenner, a child video game prodigy who lost the world championship of Donkey Kong to Eddie (Peter Dinklage). Brenner, along with childhood friend Cooper (Kevin James) were inseparable, but as always happens – they grew up. As it stands Brenner is an installer for a big box store and Cooper is, well, the President of the United States. Admittedly, I didn’t see that one coming. The country is in need of some help when it’s learned that aliens have mis-interpreted classic video game recordings (this is explained at the prologue of the film) were sent into space. As a result, the Earth is now in danger unless they can defeat the likes of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Centipede to name just a few. Brenner is called upon to lead a team to help defeat the aliens with a rag tag crew of folks. Is the world doomed or will his video game skills be enough to save the planet?
Ok, so maybe Adam Sandler saving the world isn’t the best premise for a film but you know what – I actually liked it. I tend to take most any Sandler movie with a grain of salt and the usual humor is there. Of note, this film was directed by Chris Columbus. Sound familiar? He helmed the first two Harry Potter films, Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Home Alone movies to name but a few. Here’s another guy who has nothing to prove. The movie, while not critically-acclaimed, did do some respectable box office overseas. I doubt if we’ll see a sequel, but the potential is there seeing as the number of video games grows on a daily basis. If you can put your mind on auto pilot for 90 minutes, then I think you’ll have a good time. You should know what to expect from an Adam Sandler movie at this point.
Video: How’s it look?
This might be the first film I’ve reviewed in which a 200 ft. Pac-Man tried to eat the city of San Francisco. Still, I have to commend the filmmakers for originality. The 2.39:1 AVC HD image is as flawless as they come. The 3-D looking “games” have a realism to them that’s slightly…eerie. Still, bold, bright and beautiful – my jaw was on the floor as to how good some of the scenes looked. Onto the human component, well Adam Sandler and Kevin James aren’t getting any younger, that’s for sure. Peter Dinklage looks more like a cartoon character with his sunglasses and 80’s feathered mullet which leads us to the lovely Michelle Monaghan – beautiful. Those expecting a good-looking transfer will be content.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The list of Dolby Atmos titles continues to grow, but thankfully a capable receiver isn’t necessarily needed. There’s a very powerful Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix included that more than gets the job done. If you can imagine the game Centipede in the sky, moving back and forth and through all of your speakers – I have to think that it would sound exactly as this does. Car chases, buildings demolished and everything in between combine to make this a very robust and memorable mix. Well done!
Supplements: What are the extras?
Q*Bert – The adorable digital bit hopper comes to life!
Dojo Quest – A look at the new classic arcade game that gave life to the unstoppable Lady Lisa.
Music Video – “Game On” by Waka Flocka Flame feat. Good Charlotte
God of the Machine - PAC-MAN creator Toru Iwatani was on-set and had a cameo, we hear from him about his experience and his take on the film.
The Space Invader – The winner of an arcade contest had a walk on role in the film.
PAC-MAN – A detailed look at the PAC-MAN action sequence. From Mini Coopers and stunts to visual effects, see how PAC-MAN chomps his way into real life.
Donkey Kong – See the cast perform stunts on a giant reconstruction of the classic platform game and watch as Donkey Kong goes from bits to BIG.
Centipede – The giant insect attack was the creation of visual and special effect planning as well as the patience of countless performers.
Galaga – This 80s arcade favorite leads the alien invasion, take an inside look at the attack on Guam.
Play Along Pixels Game App – Admittedly I didn’t do this, but this allows you to play a video game while watching the movie, scores and all. Cool.
Previews – Additional Sony titles (though not one for this movie).
The Bottom Line
I was actually pleasantly surprised by Pixels and I’d have every intention to hate it. Yes, some of the typical “Sandler-esque” humor is there, but as a kid who grew up on some of these video games, I was reminded of how far we’ve come, technology-wise. The Blu-ray offers up superb A/V and has just enough supplements to warrant a purchase. For others, especially those who can’t handle Kevin James as the President, might want to steer clear.