Game Over for “Pixels”

imageThere’s lots of inspired stuff in a movie about a 1982 time capsule that prompts modern-day extraterrestrials to co-opt nostalgic video game iconography to attack the planet, but director Chris Columbus and an Adam Sandler-led comedic ensemble drain Pixels (D-) of any sense of wit or charm. The filmmakers barely summon hand-eye coordination in mishandling a story about how a rag-tag group of misfits conjure their inner joysticks and roller controllers to topple Galaga, Centipede, Pac-Man and a gaggle of galactic meanies. When a film employs intentionally dated graphics and an absurd premise, it requires credible acting and a logical thematic through-line; that’s why Ghostbusters worked so brilliantly. Alas the game is over long before it starts for Pixels, with everything from Tom Arnold playing the U.S. President as Sandler’s best friend and Michelle Monaghan as Sadler’s love interest being but two of the plot points catalogued in the not-credible category. As Sandler and Josh Gad exert their action antics and moribund comedy to a not-at-all thrilling conclusion, one simply wonders what would have happened had the studio chosen a different adventure with better talent to tell this tale. For a better foray into the 8-bit heyday, I recommend the documentary King of Kong.