Nostalgia is what sells this movie.
Like Adam Sandler's other 1980's nostalgia-fest The Wedding Singer, Pixels will have a transportive effect on anyone who grew up in the 1980's. Beyond that, the appeal may lessen.
The story centers around Brenner (Sandler) who plays a video game genius from the 1980's who is now a lowly customer service tech specialist. But then aliens invade the planet using the mode of giant, larger than life pixelated video games from that decade. He is enlisted by his friend who is President of the United States (Kevin James), along other master gamers including conspiracy nut Ludlow (Josh Gad) and criminal Eddie "Fireblaster" (Peter Dinklage). With the help of weapons developed by Lt. Col Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monoghan), the go forth to fight for the fate of the Earth.
It is silly.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that it borders on stupid.
While this is reminiscent of The Wedding Singer in its love of the Reagan Era, the script is much, much lazier. The plot is simply there to fill the movie with gags.
And for me that is okay for 2 reasons:
1. Good Will. I like Adam Sandler. Yes he has done some awful comedies (e.g. You Don't Mess With The Zohan), but he has done enough thoughroly enjoyable outings (e.g. Billy Madison, Grown-Ups, Click), to earn my good will. I see reflected in Sandler someone very likable who is having fun with his friends and isn't taking himself too seriously. Pixels is comedy without edge or cynicism. It may play as too broad for some audiences, but the good will earned let me enjoy much of the shenanigans.
2. Nostalgia. I know I've already used this word a lot in this review, but that is the driving force behind this film. Director Chris Columbus knows this and crams as much of that decade into this film. I can imagine someone who is not an 80's child watching this and not being as entertained. But I soaked up every cameo and every note of the amazing soundtrack. And the movie taps into the old childhood fantasy of seeing classic video games come to life. And Columbus does a great job of making the special effects look photorealistic and cartoonish at the same time.
The cast is equally affable. James usually plays the over-excited Chris Farley character, but this time that role is given to Gad who goes for it with full gusto. In this group, James is more of the straight man, but he does deliver some funny lines. Dinklage's character is way too flat, but he exudes enough charisma to make him watchable.
The women characters are not there to be much other than love interests or eye candy. Monoghan works well with this ensemble but doesn't have much to do with her character.
You aren't going to find much morally enlightening or objectionable with Pixels.
But if you like Sandler, broad comedy, and classic video games, you will enjoy this film.
4 out of 5 stars.