In an extended prologue set in 1982, best friends Brenner and Cooper head off to the newly opened video arcade in town, where Brenner immediately excels at classic games such as Pac-Man, Centipede and Space Invaders. In fact, he’s so good he gets to participates in an arcade championship, only to come in second after losing a game of Donkey Kong to a guy called Eddie (Peter Dinklage). We then cut to present day where Cooper (Kevin James) is now the hugely unpopular president of the USA, while his buddy Brenner (Adam Sandler) wears an orange uniform and installs people’s TVs for a living. And Eddie is in jail.
There are other characters in this movie as well… Michelle Monaghan stars as Violet, a single mom who is a high-ranking weapons specialist for the government. Josh Gad plays Ludlow, a creepy conspiracy theorist who lives in his mom’s basement. Oh, and there are aliens attacking Earth with real-life versions of 80ies arcade games as weapons. Why? Because that arcade championship was filmed by NASA and sent into space as part of a time capsule. Unfortunately for us, the aliens interpreted the video as a declaration of war and that’s why people and building are being turned into pixels. Luckily, president Cooper knows just who to call and rounds up the old gang to play a real-life version of the games they mastered back in the day. No stress, losing would just mean the end of the world.
That’s pretty much the entire story of Pixels boiled down in two paragraphs. It’s not hard to do so, seeing as Chris Columbus’ latest movie is based on a 2010 French animated short film by Patrick Jean. The rest of the movie consists of little more than both James’ and Sandler’s other movies… a few cheap jokes that work and a whole lot more that don’t even come close to landing. There is zero chemistry between the actors and the action sequences might have looked good on paper, but they don’t translate well to the big screen. Not even in 3D.
At the very least, Pixels is better than some of their other movies. Then again, that’s not saying a lot if you’ve seen recent atrocities like Mall Cop 2 or The Cobbler.