Adam Sandler reboots some nostalgically familiar 1980s arcade video games – and his noisome man-child persona – but pushes all the wrong buttons with Pixels, a lame sci-fi action comedy in which a bunch of geeks save the world from attacking aliens.
Inspired by Patrick Jean’s ingenious 2010 short, the film’s conceit is that an extraterrestrial force has stumbled upon a space capsule containing footage of vintage arcade games and mistaken them for a declaration of war. When they attack Earth, they do so in the form of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and other retro games, which means that Sandler’s former teenage arcade champ turned middle-aged loser, Sam Brenner, has to dust off his old skills to save humanity from annihilation.
Aided by breezy CGI effects, Harry Potter director Chris Columbus gives the action a fair amount of zip, but the comic scenes are a flop as Sandler resorts to his familiar low-brow shtick, abetted by an equally unfunny Josh Gad and Kevin James as Sam’s boyhood chums (inexplicably, James’s character has grown up to be a buffoonish President of the United States).
Peter Dinklage pops up as Sam’s swaggering 1980s foe turned reluctant ally and Michelle Monaghan appears as his love interest, although the notion that her smart, attractive, manifestly accomplished army colonel would somehow fall for Sandler’s immature nerd is even more implausible than the idea that he might be the planet’s saviour.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 106 mins. Director Chris Columbus.