‘Pixels’ (2015) review: Arcade fire

‘Pixels’ is an insult to the video games that inspired it

I’m a gamer. I love video games. So you’ll have to understand my sheer disgust with “Pixels.” It’s not enough that it’s another lazy Adam Sandler movie; no, it also has to drag some of the most iconic characters in all of video game history through the mud alongside it. At the end of its seemingly never-ending 105 minutes, I felt like I was the one smashed with a hammer.

To say there’s a plot here would be generous, but let’s get the “story” out of the way. The comedy opens in 1982 with young friends Sam and Will nerding out at the new arcade in town. While enjoying the new wares, it turns out Sam is a bit of a wizard when it comes to deciphering patterns, making him great at “Donkey Kong,” “Pac-Man,” etc.

It doesn’t take long for our talented gamer to find himself competing in a video game championship, at which point the most interesting aspect of “Pixels” — Peter Dinklage as the obnoxious Eddie “The Fireblaster” Plant — shows up to challenge Sam. At tournament’s end, footage of the event is sent up into space for some reason.

Some three decades later, our two friends have grown up. Sam Brenner (Sandler) is a technician for Nerd Brigade. Will Cooper (Kevin James) has become president of the United States. They’re still best friends, which is how Sam comes to learn from Will that aliens are attacking Earth in the form of video games.

Can you see what happened? Somehow, sending video game footage into space has convinced aliens that humans like violent competition. Who would have thought?

Also, Michelle Monaghan is here, and she’s both the love interest for Sam and a high-ranking military official with a brilliant scientific mind.

At this point, the movie transforms into a giant, 3-D video game, with Sam and his gamer cohorts fighting against the aliens, which have taking the form of pixelated characters from popular arcade games, such as “Centipede” and “Space Invaders.” The action and graphics themselves are decent, and it’s clear where the money went here. Watching the humans don powerful weapons and take out waves of aliens “ships” is enjoyable, even if it doesn’t stand up to logic.

In the end, “Pixels,” directed by Chris Columbus, has one thing — and one thing only — going for it: Nostalgia. Those of a certain age will get a small amount of joy from seeing video game characters from their past, but that’s about it. And let me tell you: It’s not nearly enough. Poor acting and a horrendous script pack far more destructive power than any alien invader here.

One “Q*Bert is the real hero here” star out of five.

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