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‘Pixels’ Is This Summer’s Unsung Masterpiece*

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | July 24, 2015 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | July 24, 2015 |

*…of shit. Master-piece of shit. Hey, I had to see Pixels. Let me engage in a bit of levity to try and counteract the psychological trauma.

Pixels is a good movie in the same way:
*Adam Sandler really is “pro-Indian.”
*The Confederate flag is about heritage, not hate.
*Gawker is a bastion of journalistic integrity.
*Cindy has a Goop shrine in her bedroom.

I just fucking can’t with this movie. The premise of it—that we sent a video game time capsule up into space in the ’80s, but aliens take it the wrong way and challenge us to a series of real-life video game death matches—is fine. I’d want to see that if it were directed by a Guillermo del Toro or a George Miller, or anyone else but a Chris “the two Harry Potter movies most people don’t want to admit actually sucked” Columbus. (The man’s Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire days—fuck, even his Rent days—are far behind him.)

The main problem with Pixels (aside from Adam Sandler, which, obviously) is one shared by last summer’s pukefest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: It has no idea who it’s for. It presents itself as a fun, PG-13 summer actioner, as if most teenagers nowadays give a shit about Galaga or Asteroids. (Or do they? I don’t keep in touch with the yutes.) OK, so… it’s for people who grew up playing arcade games? But there’s nothing here for adults, aside from an extended gag about Peter Dinklage wanting to have a threesome with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart, which: Ew.

Speaking of ew: Josh Gad’s character, a socially awkward conspiracy theory nut, wins a woman as a trophy. Granted, it’s [SPOILER, as if you care about Pixels] the physical incarnation of “Lady Lisa,” a video game character he’s been obsessed with since he was a kid, so she’s not really human. She never talks. She’s like an anime body pillow, come to life, that he’s going to fuck, and no one thinks that’s gross. Then again, Pixels is filled with jokes about how Josh Gad’s a creeper with sexual predator undertones (when we first see him, he’s about to chloroform Adam Sandler) who’s gay but doesn’t know he’s gay (LOLOLOLOL, that joke never gets old) so it’s not like him LITERALLY WINNING A WOMAN AS A TROPHY is particularly out of place as a plot point.

There is a whole treatise to be written here about Pixels’ treatment of its female characters: Lady Lisa is a prize. Jane Krakowski, as the First Lady, barely says anything. The British Prime Minster (played in an extremely painful cameo by Fiona Shaw) is a blithering idiot who hands over defense of her country to AMURRICA. Michelle Monaghan, the female lead, spends the entire movie being led around by Adam Sandler and his team of merry bros despite being a high-ranking DARPA employee. I could write that piece, but I like not feeling suicidal, thanks. See also: Why I’m not going to go into the movie’s many (many, many) plot holes. (How do cheat codes work in real life? Why did no one except Josh Gad see the original alien broadcast? Why does President Kevin James assume the aliens are going to go away at the end? Why would Michelle Monaghan ever end up with Adam Sandler?)

I did not laugh a single time during this movie. I smiled, occasionally, because of Dinklage, who plays Eddie, the playground rival of Adam Sandler’s character. A full-on lecherous, preening dickweasel, Eddie sports an atrocious mullet and an even more atrocious (and inconsistent) accent. Is it German? Boston? Russian? Who knows. But whatever it is, it’s Jodie Foster-in-Elysium level bad.

Despite that, Dinklage at least goes for it, delivering such lines as “I owe everything I have to these bitchin’ shades” with enough energy that he’s mostly fun to watch. The man’s a professional. His polar opposite is Sandler, who spends the entire movie sleepwalking. The level of effort on display here is the same he puts into dressing himself. It’s insulting. He’s making millions for this shitpile. I can’t decide which of his lines is worse: “I got this. If I don’t, the world ends. Can’t let that happen,” or “Nerds are good at kissing, because we appreciate it more.” No. I do know. It’s the second. Cue the dry heaving.

Aside from Dinklage, some of the pop culture references were well-done. Ditto the special effects. But also fuck the special effects, because they mean this movie might get an Oscar nomination, and I don’t want to live in a world where God allows that to happen.