Adam Sandler and 2015's society are clearly trying to get back to a previous checkpoint if they're participating in Pixels.
Following the revisiting of movie franchises like Jurassic World, Mad Max, and Terminator, Chris Columbus tries to relive the classic games popular when those franchises debuted with Pixels. Columbus knows the era. He's been a part of iconic classic films such as Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985), Home Alone (1990), and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) (and let's be honest, it's only time until we revisit those films, too). That doesn't mean Pixels is an honorable memory of when we were all younger (or not yet born in the case of young people who won't understand a lot of Pixels' 80's/90's references).
Like a kid in arcade, Pixels has trouble choosing. Should it be a comedy for kids or adults? Should it focus on a love story or saving the world? Should the characters be somewhat realistic or completely far fetched? Or - should it just graze each of those options and try to cover it all up with ridiculous fun?
The simple, yet scattered plot which is already so unfathomably implausible just rolls along with elements tossed in which seem to have been conversations in the writer's room like, "Hey! This usually makes a movie good, throw it in!" Then, the other side of the room says, "Yeah! And this, too!" All the while, they forgot they're making a movie about Donkey Kong and Centipede attacking from the sky.
Had Pixels been a little bit more self-aware, it could have had a chance at being something remarkable. Instead, it's forgettable. Laughs come and go and none are remembered afterwards except for those from Josh Gad. Gad earns easily the most laughs throughout. Much like The Wedding Ringer, Gad's geeky charm and over the top abilities work in his favor and is one of a few things Pixels got right.
As for the biggest miss - that honor, sadly, goes to Peter Dinklage's "Fireblaster" character. As exciting as it may seem to get a glimpse at Dinklage doing something completely out of the Tyrion Lannister-norm, it's painfully unfunny for the most part and it isn't Dinklage's fault. His character is an awkward, ego-centric boaster named Eddie who speaks in the third person and calls himself, "Fireblaster." Dinklage is seasoned in comedy, especially counting voice work, but this time the writers gave him handed him exaggerated material which falls flat and feels awkward.
Sure, there appears to be chemistry between Sandler and Monaghan, but it's out of place in a movie so immature. The romance seems to be another attempt to make the movie and it's 80's references better received by adults who understand them, which is confusing because there's no doubt the movie attempted to target kids in its marketing. However, kids who see Pixels will be left judging their parent's childhood and probably a little scared, too.
It seems like Sandler is holding on to the past. All of his movies have their big sentimental moments where a big message attempts to be sent, which worked well in Click, but in Pixels, the nostalgia of his childhood is recaptured in flashbacks and classic games and it's all silly. He's shown his chops in Funny People and at one point he knew just the way to poke everybody's funny bone but it was when he nailed jokes which were relative to the movie's time. Perhaps it's time for Grown Ups and Pixels type movies to take a spot beside the arcade games featured this time and let modern times shape Sandler's next movie choice.
Pixels shouldn't be made to sound as though it's zero fun - it's just not worth buying tickets, popcorn, and soda for, especially when there are options like Ant-Man or Inside Out playing in the same theater. Pixels will probably get a lot of play on cable, though, when audiences can switch over to their Playstation or Xbox and have even more fun afterwards.
Bottom Line: Pixels is easy to hate for audiences going in looking for a movie with real substance. What you see is what you get with this film, no less, and definitely no more - no matter how hard it tries. 5.0/10