The 400-Word Review: Pixels

By Sean Collier

July 27, 2015

Perhaps the only funny bit from the movie.

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I’m not sure that anyone has ever, or will ever, write even 400 words on the merits of Pixels. I’m not even sure the script, which was half explosions and half improvisation, had 400 words in it. Nevertheless, here we are.

Inexplicably under the direction of Chris Columbus — the schlock spewer who did fine work with Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone many years ago but more recently ruined Rent and de-franchised Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief — the latest Happy Madison production finds Adam Sandler as Brenner, an Adam Sandler-type guy time working at a Best Buy-type electronics store. The twist: his childhood buddy, Cooper (Kevin James), is the president.

Yeah. Kevin James plays the president. Sharknado 3 had a more plausible commander-in-chief.

Anyway, the dopes were video games nuts as kids; Brenner faced off with arcade hotshot Eddie (Peter Dinklage) in a 1981 tournament. Footage of that skirmish was sent on a space probe (no, we never learn why), and a hostile alien race discovered it and has decided to challenge Earth because ...

You know what, never mind. Big pixelated arcade characters are attacking the planet, Adam Sandler has to save the day, Michelle Monaghan is there. Whatever.

Pixels is not without genuinely funny moments. The over-the-top, cocky sleazebag played by Dinklage is entertaining at every turn; a fellow loser played by Josh Gad draws big reactions (but misses every now and then, too). James, who showed promise as an everyman on the long-running sitcom “King of Queens,” is still lost on the big screen.


Sandler remains a puzzle. On the one hand, this is clearly the work he prefers to do; while he has delivered dramatic (or at least rich) performances in films such as Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish and Funny People, he is constantly returning to the bratty slapstick and gross-out humor that gave him his name in the ’90s. And yet, it never seems like he’s actually engaged; other than a few quick one-liners, he’s half-awake through Pixels.

Perhaps he’s content to hang out with friends and have a good time on set, while occasionally working on a movie. And perhaps he simply wants the money. He’s clearly less than concerned with his legacy — which, unfortunately, will be represented by a boatload of mediocre-to-bad comedies and precious few good ones. Pixels isn’t awful, but it makes the long-ago successes of Sandler seem more distant.

My Rating: 3/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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