Pixels Review

The Wizard. The 1989 Fred-Savage vehicle captured on film two brothers’ improbable (well, OK, impossible) runaway journey across two states to attend (and win) the $50,000 Videogame World Championships.

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The film, a thinly veiled commercial for Nintendo, is an awesome early testament to the mass appeal of videogames. Despite the march of time and technology, the appeal of ‘80s classic videogaming remains stronger than ever today. With that in mind, how’s this cheat code for a film formula? One part Ghostbusters, one part Avengers, one part King of Kong, one part Wreck-It-Ralph. If that combo sounds like a surefire 1-Up, you’d be right.
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PIXELS, starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James and co-starring dozens of pixelized ‘80s arcade creatures attacking Earth, delivers exactly what it promises: a special-events romp that’s a love-letter to classic gaming. Sandler is in understated Wedding Singer mode as a kid who was on top of the gaming world until a crushing second-place finish relates him to an unambitious future of “Geek Squad” tech repair. The script and performances are more subdued and much less cartoonish than expected — and largely enjoyable. Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter 1 & 2) does his job in keeping things brisk, light, and a family affair that over-30s can wax nostalgic over while keeping kids entertained (it’s videogames on the movie screen, after all, nothing to get self-important over). A lot of the movie is pretty funny even for the most critical summer-blockbuster hater, and it’s far above the toilet humor you might expect. Peter Dinklage plays Sandler’s little-person rival and frenemy to scene-chewing radicality, playing a sharp caricature of arcade-gaming luminary and “bad guy” Billy Mitchell, even down to the mullet.
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So now you know it’s a watchable film, but if you’re interested in PIXELS, it’s not because of the shot composition or foley work. You want [stuff] to go down and pixels to reign from on high. The action sequences are pretty sweet. Genuinely impressive is the Centipede scene, which is the first big action set piece. It puts you right in there with Sandler, looking up at the night sky, aiming your “light gun”, and battling the giant pixel mushrooms and monsters of Centipede trying to kill you. If you can’t have fun with this, then you don’t have a heart (container).
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It’s somehow more realistic seeing buildings explode into pixels than normal CG explositions. Probably because you know what a real fire looks like and CG can never can 100% match, but how does your brain know what a real-life pixel attack would look like? Sony deserves to be commended on the care its teams took on the special effects. Top-notch work, both in nailing what we imagine a videogame attack to look like and the quality and renderings of the monsters.
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Nerds have “won” the culture war, and a film like PIXELS proves it. Videogames are now for everyone, just as PIXELS: The Movie is. Every videogame and/or summer-movie fan should check it out. Just like those immortal videogames of the ‘80s, just pony up a quarter (or $13 worth of them, in this case), press start, and have some fun..]]>

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