‘Pixels:’ Masterpiece with an asterisk

Pixels color

(Photo courtesy of Sony) Pac-Man is one of the bad guys in the film “Pixels.”

BY ROGER THOMAS
Film Critic

There is an old joke about a preacher who was worried about a funeral he had to officiate.
It seemed that the deceased had lived a life which was less than respectable. As the preacher was preparing his remarks, the deceased man’s brother burst in the pastor’s study and said, “We both know my brother was a demon of a man, but if you don’t say at the funeral that my brother was a saint, I’ll beat you to a pulp.” All night the preacher lay awake wondering how he could be honest and not get beaten.
About dawn, he had an idea. At the service when the pastor stood up, he said, “Well, we all know Bob was a demon, but compared to his brother, he was a saint.”
“Pixels” is not a good movie, but compared to the last two Adam Sandler films, “Pixels” is a masterpiece. The last two Sandler films I watched were “Men, Women and Children” and “Blended.” Neither impressed me in any possible way.
The greatest weakness of “Pixels” is I could not focus on the plot because I kept trying to understand the science. I recognize that movie was not made to inspire thought. However, over and over again I had questions. How does that happen? Wait, why is that possible? How many people died in that scene and how exactly did they die? When you turn into pixels sometimes you die and sometimes you do not?
“Pixels” was created to thrill young children and fans of 1980s video games. I actually fall into one of those categories. I used to go to arcades in the early 80s and enjoyed some of the classic games displayed in this film. In fact, the references to the 80s and the video games of my high school and college years are the best elements of the film.
Beyond that, there are thinly conceived characters, weak performances, abundant coincidences and an overall eagerness for everything to turn out happily ever after. I know the film is made for children, but if only one major character had met their demise or actually turned evil and remained that way, the film might have obtained some weight in the plot.
Do not even get me started about the wasted talent of the often brilliant Peter Dinklage. But alas, the film just went for flashy visuals, a lightweight story and weak characters.
Speaking of the visuals, they often confused me, such as when the pixels become plastic blocks. How exactly does that happen in the world of this film?
The film is very colorful and some of the visuals of the fight scenes are effective. In fact, this is the one strength that elevates this Adam Sandler film above his last two films.
Sometime after I was done playing the video games found in this movie, I enjoyed watching the brilliant work of Adam Sandler on Saturday Night Live from 1990-1995. I have been a fan for 25 years, and I really hope he will find a project worthy of his talent.
“Pixels” is not that film, but then again, compared to other recent Sandler films, and no one is making me write this, “Pixels” is a masterpiece.

 Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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