Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
In 1982 the world changed. Especially for kids. That was the year that video arcades began springing up all over the world, giving you a few minutes of fun for every quarter you dropped into them. The better you got, the longer your quarter went. That year found four young boys competing for Nintendo domination: Brenner, Cooper, Ludlow and Eddie. Their achievements were video-taped and included in a capsule sent out into space. 33 years later that capsule was found, a presumed challenge accepted, and now the quartet must pool their skills, remember their patterns and save the world.
A fun reminder for anyone that ever put a dollar bill in a change machine and pumped quarter after quarter into “Missile Command” (guilty) “Pixels” is really a series of individual episodes featuring a different video character from the past. The four boys have now grown up into men with varied careers. Brenner (Sandler), who came in second in the 82 tournament, is now a NERD (think the GEEK SQUAD from Best Buy), installing the latest electronic equipment into homes. Cooper (Kevin James) is somehow the President of the United States, caught in a mini-scandal when a bout of fatigue at an elementary school makes it look like he can’t read. Ludlow has gone off the grid, his mind a jumble of conspiracy theories. And Eddie, the winner of the event? Let’s just say he’s right where he belongs.
Things pick up some when President Cooper assembles his friends to take on a group of aliens who have recreated the actions of the video games of the past, allowing such forces as “Galaga” and “Pac Man” to attack. The effects are well done, but sometimes they overwhelm the on-screen action. The cast is game, no pun intended, with Gad and Dinklage rising high above the material. Sandler only pulls a couple “Sandler-isms” out here, which people who aren’t fans of the actor should appreciate. And a special nod to Q-bert, who has fun with a small, supporting role. Fans of the 1980s will also appreciate that the aliens appear in the form of people very popular in that decade, from Ronald Reagan to Madonna to Max Headroom. And if you have to ask who Max Headroom is, you probably shouldn’t be seeing this movie.