Sunday, August 2, 2015
So, I've been feeling a bit sick these past couple of days. My head has been horribly congested and I woke up this morning in a cold sweat and my legs feeling like jelly. I'm fairly certain I have a minor cold, but I'm also certain that this illness is because I saw Pixels. I was fine for all of Thursday, but as soon as I get home from seeing the movie, I'm completely drained and feel disgusted with myself. Or maybe both of these things have the fortunate luck of happening one right after the other. Maybe these are completely unrelated and that it's just bad luck that I would feel horrible because of two separate reasons.
Nah, it's probably Pixels fault.
Pixels has been beaten to death these past few days for just how bad it is. Reviews have pointed out how unfunny it is, how it doesn't really represent the video game industry, its unlikable main characters, how the aliens involved change their motivation every scene, and that the ending just feels completely undeserved and kind of, just a little bit, misogynistic. I understand all of that. I also understand that this is an Adam Sandler movie, so we need to instantly attack him and claim this is one of the worst movies of the year just because it has Adam Sandler in it, like how we did for Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2.
Yet, here's the strangest thing. I feel like everyone is being way too harsh on this movie. Don't get me wrong, I agree with nearly every point that reviewers present in the flaws of Pixels, and this is a bad movie, but it's really not "end of the world", "worst movie ever" kind of movie. If we're being perfectly fair here, I think this movie is being completely destroyed by critics because it has Adam Sandler's name on it.
I will fully admit that I'm not the biggest Adam Sandler fan, and I will also admit that he sticks to a very simple schtick and routine in nearly all of his movies, but the man has made some decent movies in the past, some of them actually being pretty recent. We all seem to forget that movies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Fifty First Dates, and the recent Hotel Transylvania exist. The mentality now is that all Adam Sandler movies are bad because the majority of his movies are bad. The majority of his filmography caters to the lowest common denominator, so of course people say his movies sucks. To me, Adam Sandler is kind of in the same league as Tyler Perry. Yes, they're both massively successful and rich because of their films, but we're outsiders looking in. We're not the demographic for their movies. Now you could also argue that you could target a demographic, yet still make a good movie, and you would raise a valid point, but that doesn't exist today. Today, we're here to see what happens when Adam Sandler talks about video games.
Sam Brenner was a child that was great at arcade games. He mastered several arcade games and became known as the Pac-Man World Champion. The footage of him becoming the champion, as well as his loss to the arrogant Peter Dinklage, aka "Fire Blaster", was placed in a space pod in the hope of finding extraterrestrial life. When he became an adult, his gaming skills never really took him anywhere. Now he's just a tech squad guy with his best friend becoming the President of the United States. But when the capsule is discovered by aliens, they invade Earth looking for a life or death game to determine the planet's fate. So Sam, the President, and all of his friends from the past must unite to stop this alien threat.
I can't quite explain why, but that premise just sounded so trite back there. It almost sounded like it was from a bad video game. Don't be fooled of course, because this game will cram no much gaming memorabilia in your face, but it doesn't understand any of it. You'll see Q-bert pop up a lot of a side character, or the big chase involving Pac-Man in NYC, but the movie doesn't understand how these characters work, or at least make them more interesting than they are. The biggest problem I have with Pixels is that it doesn't use these characters or franchises in any new or impactful way. We just see these character as they play their game, and that's it. Q-bert has the biggest role amongst the video game characters, because he talks with our heroes and gives them information, but the video game characters are only here to be video game characters to put on the poster. You can recognize Pac-Man, so here's Pac-Man!
This movie isn't cynically playing of nerd hype and making nerds want to see this movie, because nerds know not to see this. They know how hokey the movie looks and how insipid it is. We would get more stimulus out of sitting in an Xbox Live Call of Duty match with your mic on. So, it's safe to assume that this is for the laymen to watch. No nerds, just your average guy looking in to the world of video games. In that regard, holy crap does Pixels paint us negatively. Out of the main characters, three of whom are gamers, and none of them are even remotely close to good people. Out of our three, you have an arrogant, rude, and cheating Peter Dinklage, a paranoid conspiracy theorist that wants to marry a video game character, and Adam Sandler. None of these three men are nice, and are usually the butt of jokes. Yes they save the day, but not after getting tons of remarks about being nerds for it.
And then there's the Adam Sandler tropes. I know I started out my review deciding to defend Adam Sandler, but this is not one of those instances. I can defend him at times, but when he falls victim to his own story telling tropes, then it's fair game. You've seen this movie before in nearly every single Adam Sandler movie. Starts off with him as a kid, something happens to him, now he's a loser adult/man-child. Something happens to him to spring him to action, and he's now the one normal guy in a world that is clearly different from him, usually to spring board jokes off of. He's also clearly the best for the job, and will eventually land a hot girlfriend who doesn't like him first, but his charm and normalcy wins her over in the end. Rinse and repeat for nearly every single of of his movie. Pixels is no exception, so if you're a Happy Madison fan, here's your standard Happy Madison movie, but with a video game theme this time.
Then you have the rushed climax and my absolute favorite part of the movie. You see, a defining character trait for Josh Gad's character is that as a kid, he had a crush on a video game character named Lady Lisa (fake game for the record). So during the climax, Lady Lisa appears to fight him, but she doesn't look like a pixelated video game character. She looks human, even though she really shouldn't because these pixelized aliens don't have the capability to do that. But he wins her over int he heat of battle and they fight together, even though this alien is not the video game character and should have no relation whatsoever to him or want to fall in love with him. Spoilers, but they save the day, and the aliens disappear, including Lady Lisa. Josh Gad is sad, but then Q-bert turns in to Lady Lisa as a reward for him, and they both get married and have little Q-bert babies.
Not only does that scene bend all of the rules of logic the game made about these alien invaders, but it also decided to reward Josh Gad with a woman for winning because he felt sad. Lady Lisa is a woman that Josh has obsessed over for years to the point he erected a shrine of her, that he wins for beating a game. Whenever a movie makes stupid decisions like this, it just makes me wonder who ignored this while it was being made? Who didn't check to see if this was a bad idea or that the movie needed some help? Who trusted Adam Sandler to make this movie?
There is no denying that Pixels is bad. You know it, I know it, it's bad. But the level of awfulness varies from person to person. I don't think it's too awful, but it's still probably going to make an appearance on my Worst of the Year list. If Adam Sandler just stopped making awful movies, then we wouldn't have to critically eviscerate the stinkers. But we live in a world that has united under the notion that Adam Sandler is awful. And lo, we must abide by this notion. Pixels sucks because of course it sucks.
Side note, if a Lannister pays his debts, does that mean I get a refund?