by Michael Cox

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday July 25, 2015

A scene from 'Pixels'
A scene from 'Pixels'  (Source:Columbia Pictures)

Happy Madison Productions certainly has a recipe for movie making; it's been successful for them at the box office for a long time, but it seems to have lost its flavor. Thematically, this structure is all about wish fulfillment and the American Dream.

"Pixels" follows this roadmap perfectly, but the universal feelings within the formula have faded, and it has lost any real sense of passion behind its plot points.

In 1982, the young Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) becomes a competitive marvel by memorizing patterns in various arcade games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Space Invaders and Tetris. He takes his skills all the way to a championship that is videotaped and put into a time capsule, which is then sent into space by NASA with the hope of showing extraterrestrial life a little bit about Earth's culture.

Flash forward to the present, where Sam is stuck in a demeaning job as home theater installer while his best friend Will Cooper (Kevin James) has become President of the United States.

In the middle of a cute meet with a weapons developer and military specialist, Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), Sam gets a call from his old buddy, the Commander in Chief. Apparently the aliens found the time capsule and took the videotape of gaming footage as a declaration of war. Using pixelated videogame characters and strategies from the arcade classics, intergalactic warriors attack the Earth.

When a hyper-masculine, even Herculean, U. S. military can't stop the space invasion, Sam and his nerd friend Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) realize that they are the only people with the skills for this battle. But Sam will need more than skill when he comes face to face with Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage), the guy who beat him out of the 1982 Video Game Championship. After all, it was this loss (and this loss alone) that led to his lack of success in life.

This movie is the perfect opportunity for '80s nostalgia and retro charm, but the most retro thing about this film is the way women are portrayed and that the concept of the U. S. President as a white man. The Lieutenant Colonel is valued more for her beauty than she is for her military knowledge, and the other women are either smiling supporters or spoils of war. It's almost pathological how some of the most powerful and successful women in our culture, like Serena Williams and Martha Stewart, are sexualized and valued as products for negotiation rather than for their own abilities. Sure, it's all in the name of humor, but that kind of comedy is telling.

Extremely talented actors like Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox and Jane Krakowski are wasted on two-dimensional roles that no amount of talent can fill with humor and heart. This film is, however, a sensational spectacle that can blow you back in your seat when viewed in IMAX 3D.


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