Weekend Forecast for July 24-26, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
July 24, 2015
Is there anything quite so terrible as a clever premise wasted (other than mayo on burgers. That's gotta stop, people)? We're likely to find out this weekend.
As premises go, Pixels is actually based on quite a potentially fruitful one. An alien civilization, upon receiving transmissions of video games from Earth from 1982, interpret these as declarations of war and decide to respond in kind, sending giant versions of the characters from these video games to Earth, which turn everything they touch into colorful cubes (voxels, if we're being pedantic/correct). A team of video game experts then band together to take down the space invaders (but not, you know, Space Invaders). I mean, you could totally make a good movie about this, touching on the dangers of nostalgia overload, laden with pop culture references and clever action sequences, and it's semi-original if you haven't seen that Futurama episode that is this exactly. But moving on...
Then, you look at who's involved with the project and it's no no no no no this can't be please no no no. Adam Sandler has gotten his grimy, lazy hands all over it and has teamed up with Chris Columbus, who is a film director like beige is a color, to give it the most basic and banal effort possible. Sandler plays a former video game champion now working at a Geek Squad type outlet who gets brought in to fight the invaders by his childhood friend, who is now the President of the United States (Kevin James – you know, I'll actually give them that one, that's pretty funny). The cast also include Josh Gad as the “real” nerd of the bunch, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage and Ashley Benson as notables, but it's that big gaping hole at its center that's really the problem.
Once upon a time, Sandler was actually a comedic force to be reckoned with, and produced, if not particularly highbrow, at least inventive comedies (though in a nice twist of fate, was actually launched into being a big-time draw with another nostalgia piece). Some time in the early '00s, however, he kind of stopped caring, and now openly takes films take get him a family vacation in the process. I mean, nice work if you can get it, but if you want me to watch the things... While the Grown Ups films have done well, he's basically at the point of writing off theatrical release, signing a deal with Netflix and recently had a film not get out of limited release, which would have been an insane thought back in the Big Daddy days.
Pixels didn't involve a vacation, but it does involve Sandler at his hackiest. As a tech demo, it's probably pretty dazzling. As a film played for laughs and action, well... Critics are teeing off on the film, as much good as that will do, as the premise is likely to give Sandler one last kick at the blockbuster can unless he starts trying again. It's a cynically marketed movie, playing off images of Pac-Man and Q-Bert and the worst thing is that it's likely to work. Look for an opening weekend around $32 million.