I… have no words. I just don’t. I saw PIXELS mere hours ago as of this writing, and I find myself incapable of putting what I’m feeling into words – such is the magnitude of the disaster I’ve witnessed. Is this what Cavemen felt the first time they saw what, to them, looked like something was literally eating the Sun? Is this that Existential Horror thing Lovecraft was talking about… in between all the super-uncomfortable anti-semitic stuff?
PIXELS… is an unmitigated piece of godawful fucking dogshit. It’s existence feels like alternately like a poison or a genital infection. It is celluloid chlymidia. Cinematic strychnine. I shouldn’t even BE here – this isn’t my jurisdiction: I’m a film critic, and PIXELS isn’t a movie… it’s a motherfucking active crime scene. And the crime is cultural vandalism.
What we’re faced with here is not simply the almost-certainly WORST major Hollywood movie of the goddamn year and easily the worst Adam Sandler movie where he’s NOT doing a stupid fucking vocal-affectation, but the vomit-encrusted nadir of the unholy assembly-line transmutation of Generation-X nostalgia into the quote-unquote “geek” corporate-branded marketing identity – the Burning of The Library of Alexandria by way of Hot Topic t-shirt printing.
PIXELS is bad enough to make you hate the things you love, and watching it made me want to take a blowtorch to every scrap of video-game memorabilia… except then I’d only have like 2 decent t-shirts. I didn’t merely hate this movie – I wanted to beat it slowly to death with a fucking wiffle-ball bat. So it’d take longer. I was bored within 2 minutes, angry after 5 and by the time all 100 minutes had run out I was sad and numb… which has now simmered into pure, white hot pants-shitting rage. This is the kind of movie that shouldn’t be “reviewed” so much as fed through a malfunctioning industrial shredder… cock first, as I have to assume is the custom over at Happy Madison.
Egh… fuck everything. But anyway! The “plot” to this tepid cauldron of room-temperature yak piss (inspired by a charming animated short film from a few years ago whose creator I… hope was well fuckin’ compensated at least) is that a race of aliens have misinterpreted samples of Earth popular-culture contained in NASA probe for a declaration of war and have attacked the planet with an army of energy-creatures mimicking the forms of circa-1982 arcade games included among said samples.
That’s… not the “worst” mechanism for setting up what is effectively retro-game JUMANJI by way of a castrato-cover of MARS ATTACKS – assuming that’s something you’ve decided needs to exists for some shit-awful reason – but in Sandler’s typical combination of overwrought yet somehow still half-assed story-structure, it can’t just leave things there. Instead, PIXELS wants to shoe-horn in a metric-ton of Kevin Smith-style pop-reference pandering in the form of another tired-as-fuck manchild hero’s journey; so the invaders opt to challenge humanity to life-sized “real life” variations on one specific classic game at a time – leading Kevin James’ embattled United States President (fucking really!) to conscript Sandler, Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage as a team of former competitive arcade champs to lead the battle… mostly by engaging in tacky, dated stereotypes about these “loser weirdo” gaming-nerds having to prove themselves against the skepticism of the big meanie army guys.
SIDEBAR: The *hell* is Peter Dinklage doing in this pile of skidmarked Sumo thongs? I know a Lannister always pays his debts but what the FUCK? Did Sandler pull him out of a tire fire or something? He doesn’t have to do this shit! Hell, neither does Josh Gad – I’m pretty sure he gets paid every time someone buys one of those fuckin’ Olaf dolls!
Anyway... The whole “SCOTT PILGRIM but for assholes” routine with the game sequences is so overcomplicated yet poorly thought-out you’d think they shot the fuckin’ thing over a weekend if not for shamefully expensive it all looks. The rules, stakes and mechanic change with no rhyme or reason: The humans play the “good guy” player role for the Centipede scene but they have to be the Ghosts in the Pac-Man scene – why? Who the fuck knows and the movie doesn’t care. At one point entering a “cheat code” works for some reason without explaining how it was entered and why it mattered; and these aren’t tiny nitpicks – these are major plot developments getting ground up into some of the worst action-movie storytelling since TRANSFORMERS 2.
What do the Aliens even want? Nobody seems to care – sometimes they’re evil, then in the next scene it’s all about them being confused, at one point we’re flat-out told in a moment of important, highlighted exposition that they were peaceful until they got hold of our probe and could maybe be reasoned with… and it’s dropped ONE scene later never to come up again because there’s some Donkey Kong jokes we haven’t done yet! There’s the germ of an interesting idea dying from lack of oxygen within this shitstorm i.e. so muchof our popular-culture being grounded in the mythologizing of, competition and the arbitrary winner/loser binary why wouldn't they mistake it for us declaring war… but that might’ve been interesting and insightful, and PIXELS is clearly aiming more of an “advanced scrotum-cancer” kind of vibe.
But what really turns the whole thing from just one more stupid fucking waste-of-time Summer comedy into the waterfall of elephant jizz cascading into theaters this weekend is that it’s so oppressively, endlessly, bald-faced cynical about the disingenuous appropriation of its own supposed reason for existing. There’s not a single interesting joke or visual gag making use of the presence of all the classic gaming iconography Sandler and his goon-squad have been allowed to fuck around with. The supposed “humorous” use of every single Pixelated “thing” in the movie never ONCE rises beyond the level of “HAHAHAHAHA! I recognize that, which for some reason qualifies as a joke now!” This isn’t just keeping great art in a bad frame – this is using original Monets to wallpaper a port-a-potty at an IBS Symposium.
This is the kind of bad licensing-driven movie that’s so fucking glib and self-satisfied with its own sleazy cash-grab existence that it takes time out to make sure it ALSO shits on the sort of more earnest, heartfelt version of the same idea someone who gave two shits might’ve made – as you’ve already seen in the trailers with the weirdly mean-spirited "creator of Pac-Man" sequence.
But it get's worse: One of the dozen fucking go-nowhere nonsensical subplots is that the aliens beam down “good” incarantions of random game characters as “trophies” when the humans win a game, which literally ONLY exists so that Q*Bert can become a comic-relief sidekick midway through… except the aliens later refer to him a “traitor” which contradicts this and OH MY FUCKING GOD DID ANYONE PROOFREAD THE SHOOTING SCRIPT FOR GORILLA TURD!? Still… Q*Bert briefly becomes the only decent (if pointless) thing in the movie because he’s cute and its just kinda funny that he’s “there” …but they find a way to fuck it up.
See, another subplot is that Gad’s creepy basement-nerd caricature is obsessed with a made-up female game heroine who shows up as one of the Pixel-monsters but then switches sides and helps him fight because reasons… and then he’s sad vanishes with all the other aliens once the good guys win (SPOILER! Fuck you!) win because “they only get to keep the Trophies” ...which then causes Q*Bert to magically transform into that same heroine for some cocksmith’s idea of a fucking happy ending. So PIXELS *ends* with the only likable character and the only non-bullshit incarnation of it’s own premise blinking out of existence so that ONE of two vaguely-prominent women characters in the cast can serve as a literal trophy. Holy fucking shit.
That, above all else, is what’s so irrationally infuriating about this maggot-oozing head-wound of a movie: It plays at being this sentimental ode to the glory days of classic games, but clearly doesn’t have a fucking drop of sincere interest in what’s made these characters and imagery so enduring or even what made the games themselves so compelling! No matter how many classic cabinets and 80s MTV needle-drops PIXELS trots out, it’s always – nakedly! – the work of a bunch of shit-gargling fuckwits with zero love for or understanding OF this stuff beyond the ability to sell tickets based on “Hey! Remember PAC-MAN!? Remember SPACE INVADERS!? Remember when this guy was in GOOD MOVIES!?”
Fucking hell. Sandler’s literal character-arc in this movie is learning to let go of the pride he takes in having the skill to excel at these classic games and instead embrace an open-ended “what-ever!” just-try-not-to-die modern-gaming approach in order to succeed – “But hey! Don’t pay attention to all that, folks! Look! Stuff from JOUST! Remember JOUST!? Pay us money to remind that JOUST existed!!!” And the only thing worse… is that it’s probably going to work – one more bullshit movie-interlude for the masses to break up the monotony of our ongoing waddle toward IDIOCRACY.
Let me be crystal fucking clear here, folks: PIXELS is the *worst* thing to happen to video games since the CDi, Microtransactions, YouTube screamers, voice-chat and the death of the Dreamcast combined... but it would absolutely still be a festering ocean of stagnant koala feces no matter WHAT licensed-property nostalgia it was pretending to pander to – and probably will still be less than four fucking months from now in the form of that Jack Black GOOSEBUMPS movie. Every game company who let their creations turn up in this shitpile should be flogging themselves like a Catholic masturbator right now – yes, even you, Nintendo – fucking hell, you "swear off" Hollywood for like 20 years after one shitty Mario movie but NOW suddenly you’re totally okay with Mario, Donkey Kong and the Duck Hunt Dog showing up in this abortion? Classy. Real motherfuckin’ classy.
But for now, PIXELS is awful on a level that defies even the most negative conventions of review. Not a single joke lands, not a single performance works, the story is beyond lazy, the stakes make no sense, the staging is limp and lifeless and director Chris Columbus has finally made a movie worse than NINE MONTHS. It demands some sort of new metric below the “stars” or “thumbs” number-scales, like “How many fingers should the people responsible for this be allowed to keep?” I hate this movie so much I would’ve rather watched BLENDED again. I hate this movie so much I wish I’d caught up with PAUL BLART 2 instead. I hate this piece of shit so much I’m no longer rooting for Tyrion to make it out of Season 6 alive! I wanted to run this movie over with my car. Repeatedly. I wanted to ritually blind this movie with razor-wire.
As a film critic, I’m so used to Sandler sucking at this point that it’s a challenge not to start grading his bullshit on some kind of “curve,” but as some who actually loves all the stuff PIXELS fucks around *pretending* to appreciate it feels like the Pride of Manchester New Hampshire here broken into my fuckin’ house, took a bloody, backed-up post-Taco Bell Miralax-shit in the middle of my fuckin living room and now wants me to pay him for the goddamn privilege.
Fuck this movie. Fuck everyone who made this movie. And if you pay money to watch this movie? FUCK YOU TOO.