Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: Pixels

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Game-busters Michelle Monaghan, Adam Sandler and Josh Gad.
Game-busters Michelle Monaghan, Adam Sandler and Josh Gad.

Remember Ghostbusters? Pixels sure does. In this, Adam Sandler is the Bill Murray of the outfit. He's leading a crew to save the world against an invasion of 80s videogame arcade characters created by aliens who got hold of one of those Nasa space probes with a recording of what we did for entertainment in 1982.

But Sandler is no Murray. And though Murray's old teammate Dan Akroyd gets an early cameo, it's soon obvious Pixels lacks the wide appeal or mad scientist smarts of Ghostbusters. It's got a dirty mouth for a start and it comes with some performances that actually - I kid you not - outdo Sandler for silly-voiced annoyance. Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage is one of them, Josh Gad is the other.

So it becomes a big effects action comedy laced with middle-aged 80s pop culture nostalgia, with Sandler attempting to charm Michelle Monaghan's out-of-his-league Pentagon genius. Add that all up and it's a pretty narrow bandwith of appeal, especially in a film which feels like it takes way too long getting to its final level.

True, there is a fun idea beneath it all - that was a short film by Frenchman Patrick Jean, who staged his own alien invasion as a homage to the video games of his youth. And the feature it inspired does have some infectious enthusiasm for the arcade era and has time to debate the merits of then and now in videogaming. Plus it has an actor playing actual Japanese Pac Man inventor Toru Iwatani as New York faces a giant Pac Man chomping his way through Manhattan.

His scenes - think Leonard Nimoy turning up in the Star Trek reboots - start out as cute geekdom but they are undermined by stupid crassness.

Director Christopher Columbus has delivered some decent kids flicks in his time. Not here though. While his special effects scenes are colourful, the tone is off, care of Sandler and his cronies, all former teenage videogamers who are the only men who can save the world from space invaders employing actual space invaders and other weapons.

So here's the parental advisory: Don't let let your tweens see Pixels. Not only will you have to explain the dark age of videogames difference between Galaxy and Galaga, the list may have to take in product placement, casual misogny, and new words you won't want them yelling at each other in the car on the way home. Oh and maybe explain why the short guy from Thrones is so much better in a programme they aren't allowed to see either.

Pixels might want to be Ghostbusters with an invasion of 8-bit villains instead of spooks. But its two-bit human cast just brings it down.

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad
Director: Chris Columbus
Running time: 106 mins
Rating: PG (Violence, coarse language & sexual references)
Verdict: Not as bad as advance word - the words being "Adam Sandler movie" - would suggest. Still ...

- TimeOut

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