Review | Pixels

Review | Pixels

As part of a NASA space probe, a video cassette of the 1982 video arcade championships is sent into deep space. Unfortunately aliens mistake it as a declaration of war!

A young Sam Brenner spends his free time with his best friend William Cooper. Together they play video games at the local arcade. There they can play all the latest games such as Donkey Kong, Centipede and Pac-Man.

They learn of the world’s first video arcade game championships and apply to enter. It all comes down to the final play off between Sam and Eddie Plant, who is so vain he has given himself the nickname of “Fire Blaster”.

Unfortunately Eddie wins but life must go on and Sam grows up to become a professional nerd. He is a technician who travels to customers’ homes to help them setup their computers or audio visual equipment.

Meanwhile in another part of the world, an American base is attacked by alien craft which look like they have come straight from a 1980’s arcade game. The president of the United States is alerted and it transpires that Sam’s old friend William is now running the country. Unfortunately, neither William nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff can figure out where the attack came from or who they are.


Sam shows up at Williams request to watch the video of the attack. There is something very familiar about the way it all occurred. It suddenly clicks and Sam storms into the Presidents meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to reveal that this is no attack from Earth. The attack is from an alien species that has taken on the form of the attacking craft from the arcade game Galaga.

The army is mobilised to defend from another attack but now they have the best arcade players in the world to help train them, Sam, Eddie and their old friend Ludlow Lamonsoff.

I’m just going to get this out of the way right now and say that this film is an embarrassment for everyone involved.

I’ve never been an Adam Sandler fan. I’ve tried watching a few of his movies but always found the humour to be very low brow. An example of his style of humour would be his recent announcement about his contract to make films exclusively with Netflix, “It sounds like wet chicks!” Need I say any more?


The original ‘Pixels’ was originally a short film directed by Patrick Jean in 2010 and featured an attack on earth by aliens that have taken the forms of classic arcade game characters such as Pac-Man, Tetris blocks or even the bat and ball from Arkanoid.

It was with great disappointment when I heard that the film rights had been sold to Sandler’s production company Happy Madison Productions but I still decided to see the film anyway, the retro gaming vibe had me intrigued.

To be honest I’m surprised I sat there and watched the film all the way to the end.

‘Pixels’ is a comedy but the characters are so extreme that I found it hard to watch without picking the film apart. Apparently in this film, comedy overrules logic. For example, they play a real life Pac-Man game with the main characters driving around in custom Minis acting as the four ghosts trying to capture Pac-Man.

Whilst the main characters are experts at the Pac-Man arcade game, that doesn’t mean they would be able to replicate those skills in a real world situation. Driving a car around a city block is very different to controlling a sprite around a video game screen. This logic applies to every battle they encounter and for me it made no sense.


As already mentioned, Sandler plays a nerd, basically he is just himself in this film. On the other hand Josh Gad is Ludlow Lamonsoff, a nerd portrayed to the fullest extent of the word. He’s a virgin, never kissed a girl and also believes in some of the wackiest conspiracy theories around. It was excruciating to watch. The character is not only annoying but an insult as well.

Sandler’s favourite film buddy Kevin James is also along for the ride as William, the president of the United States. The character is so stupid and apparently universally despised by the public. How the hell he was elected to president in the first place?

The last member of the group is Eddie “Fire Blaster” Plant played by Peter Dinklage. His performance easily rises above the rest and he also has the best lines of the film. It felt like the role was written for him in mind as replacing him with anyone else would lessen the character.

Special mentions must also go out to Sean Bean and Brian Cox. Not only was I surprised to see them in this film but also felt embarrassed for them as well. Seeing two decent actors in such demeaning roles, I don’t understand why they agreed to do this.

Everything isn’t negative though. The stylised CGI effects of the attacking 80’s arcade aliens are very well done. Not only do they look great but everything that is attacked is reduced to pixels, small glowing cubes. It’s a great effect and was one of the very few reasons I watched the film through to the end.

I wasn’t a big fan Adam Sandler’s films to begin with and this film just further reinforced my feelings about them. In all honesty I did laugh out loud twice, but for a ninety minute comedy film, that’s not good enough.

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John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves the movies and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990's. Whilst the web page idea became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. Now he's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.

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