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Pixels - review

Pixels - review

As dumb blockbuster premises go, at first glance it’s not that terrible. A race of aliens misinterpret signals from 80s video games as acts of war. Decades later, they attack Earth using supersized weapons and characters modelled on Space Invaders, Frogger, Donkey Kong and the rest. It sounds like simple, joyfully dumb fun.

And that’s exactly what Pixels is — Pixels, the short film by French director Patrick Jean, that is. Pixels, the bloated movie it inspired, is astonishingly simple and proudly, boorishly dumb.

But it’s not joyful. Adam Sandler’s name is so often prefixed with “funnyman” that it’s easy to forget he long ago gave up writing actual jokes. His Pixels script includes plenty of insults directed at its only major female character, a military analyst played by Michelle Monaghan, who still can’t help falling for video-game savant Sam Brenner (Sandler), the man chosen to fight back against the invading alien force.

There are buffoonish lines for Kevin James, as the President of the United States — yes, you read that right — and some gay-panic humour, which feels oddly appropriate for an 80s nostalgia-fest like this. But there is nothing that could really be described as a joke.

The goofy absurdity of Happy Gilmore has never seemed so long ago.

Up in the Northern Hemisphere, the critical panning and box-office kicking Pixels received (the latest in a string of failures for Sandler) is long gone.

Here, the film’s release is scheduled for the school holidays when, it’s hoped, bored adolescents will line up to watch Sandler blast Tetris blocks and Pac-Man smiley faces into next week.

But why would they? The games Pixels references surely mean as little to today’s kids as Max Headroom, Fantasy Island and Tammy Faye Bakker, all of which appear here in reanimated form.

Pixels seems to be nothing more than wish-fulfilment for Sandler, surely Hollywood’s most indulged man, and an easy pay day for slumming stars like Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Brian Cox.

Serena Williams pops up in a dignity-crushing cameo — ensuring the US Open wasn’t the worst thing to happen to her in 2015 — and the brilliant Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) is wasted in a role apparently whittled in the editing suite to a handful of pointless, near-wordless appearances.

Save your time and money: watch the original Pixels, all 2 minutes 35 seconds of it, for free on Vimeo instead.

PIXELS / The short film from ONE MORE on Vimeo.

Film & TV