August 15, 2015 11.55 am This story is over 76 months old

Film review: Pixels – Game On!

Film review: Mrs Doubtfire director Chris Columbus brings video games to life in Pixels. But is it worth a trip back to the arcade?

When was the last time you went to the cinema to see something original? With 2015 being the year of the reboot and the sequel, it’s nice to see a film like Pixels showcasing something completely different. But is it worth a go?

Directed by Chris Columbus of Mrs. Doubtfire and Harry Potter fame, Pixels stars Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage and a woefully miscast Kevin James in a film that doesn’t do enough with its fascinating premise, descending into painfully unfunny slapstick instead.

Sandler stars as Sam Brenner, a video game lover who, after a brief scene showing his history, is tasked with saving the world as aliens infiltrate Earth and begin to attack using some of our most-loved classic arcade games.

Alongside him for the ride are fellow video-game champs Josh Gad (Frozen), Peter Dinklage (X:Men – Days of Future Past) and Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop). The latter also happens to play the US President.

Unfortunately, none of the cast are particularly likeable with the usually on-point James playing one of the worst Presidential roles ever put to film. He is simply unbelievable as the leader of the United States and provides Pixels with some of its more cringe-worthy moments.

Once the film gets going, there are a few standout moments including a Pac-Man rampage through New York City but this has been so heavily marketed in the trailers that there is practically no suspense or joy in watching it unfold.

The finale is also very good, with a Donkey Kong showdown rendered in some stunning CGI and ridiculously clever set building and it’s great fun seeing so many classic arcade games being brought to life on the big screen.

Pac-Man, Q*Bert , Centipede and Donkey Kong are just a few to appear and look glorious with their 21st Century upgrades. Q*Bert in particular is a little cutie and is a major character throughout the last third of the film.

It’s unfortunate then that Chris Columbus’ usually reliable direction takes such a knock here. There’s none of the clever generation-bending humour of Mrs. Doubtfire or the laugh-out-loud slapstick of Home Alone, and the visual style he brought to Harry Potter is nowhere to be seen. In the end, Pixels just comes across as a brilliant concept that seems wasted.

Perhaps this can be blamed somewhat on poor casting choices. Adam Sandler hasn’t been hot property for a while after numerous box-office bombs and Peter Dinklage is still establishing himself as a major movie star. With Kevin James also proving a disappointment, it’s only Josh Gad who comes out on top – just.

Ultimately, Pixels is fun while it lasts and has some absolutely brilliant set pieces but once the credits roll, it’s apparent that it won’t be memorable like the wonderful arcade games it parodies.


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An avid lover of all things film, Adam Brannon has grown up with a huge passion for cinema that can be traced right back to his favourite childhood movie, Steven Spielberg's smash hit, Jurassic Park. After graduating from the University of Lincoln with a degree in journalism, he now writes film reviews for his own website, Movie Metropolis and for the Press Association.