Editor’s Notes: Pixels is currently out in wide theatrical release. For more on Adam Sandler, read An Open Breakup Letter to Adam Sandler by Derek Deskins.
Pixels is best mainstream movie that Adam Sandler has made in years. This is as shocking a sentence to me as it will likely be to you. Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor allow me to explain why Pixels isn’t a waste of your time and money.
I don’t necessarily place myself as firmly in the anti-Sandler camp as so many tend to do, but I do understand the reasoning for the vitriol. I actually enjoy many of Sandler’s earlier films and even dig the first Grown Ups film (seriously, it’s not as bad as everyone says it is). I think the dramatic work from Sandler in films like Punch Drunk Love and Funny People is fantastic stuff, but there’s no denying how headache-inducing Sandler can be given the wrong mix circumstances. Luckily, Pixels gives Sandler the best set of circumstances he’s had in some time.
Sandler feels restrained here, but in a refreshing way where he strikes just the right balance.
The best decision Sony made when adapting Patrick Jean’s short film into a feature- length film (seriously, there’s a pretty cool short on YouTube that got turned into an $88 million blockbuster) was choosing a director that wasn’t Dennis Dugan or any of the other directors that usually attach themselves to Happy Madison productions. It’s likely that Columbus was chosen purely for his proficiency in handling big budget effects on films like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, but Columbus’s greatest accomplishment was laying the ground for an Adam Sandler performance that is genuinely enjoyable to watch. Sandler feels restrained here, but in a refreshing way where he strikes just the right balance between his previous films’ over-the-top antics and the impersonation of a coma patient in Men, Women and Children.
If Columbus was brought on purely to handle a movie with big-budget effects, he certainly didn’t disappoint here.
If Columbus was brought on purely to handle a movie with big-budget effects, he certainly didn’t disappoint here. Pixels features three major action sequences, each of them better executed and more exciting than anything in Jurassic World. While the script requires us not to ask a lot of questions (playing video games and living video games are two completely different sets of skills), it tells an interesting story that finds a good mixture of action and comedy. Said script was written by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Downling. Both responsible for more beloved Sandler films like The Wedding Singer and Billy Madison, and they don’t fail here in helping Columbus give Sandler his best movie in years.
The decision to cast people who aren’t normally associated with Happy Madison movies (the only real glaring exception being Kevin James as POTUS) also proved to a good move. Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage provide some great laughs as Sandler’s sidekicks. Gad spends most of the movie screaming or being riddled with anxiety, but he does so in a way that is fun to watch. Dinklage continues to prove that he is one of the best actors working today, with just his mannerisms and expressions making for some big laughs. Sean Bean and Brian Cox show up for some fun riffs on their badass personas, and Michelle Monaghan makes a nice romantic costar.
As far as movies about video game characters attacking the planet go, Pixels delivers the goods. It is still a Happy Madison movie, and you’ll find that all the familiar jokes associated with that brand present here, but even those are dialed back and presented with just the right amount of dosage. I’d like to view Pixels as Adam Sandler’s comeback movie, but given the bad press surrounding the upcoming Ridiculous 6, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pixels winds up as a refreshing exception to what has become normal Sandler fare.
As far as movies about video game characters attacking the planet go, Pixels delivers the goods. It is still a Happy Madison movie, and you’ll find that all the familiar jokes associated with that brand present here, but even those are dialed back and presented with just the right amount of dosage.