Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pixels ★1/2

Image result for Pixels film stills

     Summer blockbusters, generally speaking, accomplish what one can deem to be the most simplistic aim for any film: that is, to entertain. Although "Pixels" does have its moments in this department, it essentially comes off as nothing more than a failed attempt to introduce our younger generation to pre-social media America, which is not only futile, but completely ineffective. (Has anyone under the age of 18 even heard of Pac-Man?) Sure, its cheap dialogue may conjure some laughter from an adolescent, yet I found myself cringing at the thought of the next joke, considering most were executed in poor taste. (There is a remark concerning John F. Kennedy that was surely unneeded and what I would designate to be downright egregious.)

    The plot could not be anymore undemanding: An effort to make contact with extraterrestrial life in the 1980s backfires, as our alien counterparts, inevitably interpret our communication as a declaration of war, and as they now proceed to reign destruction on the Earth in the form of pixelated enemies. Wait! You mean there is actually more to it? Well, sort of. Apparently, these intelligible beings feel that eradicating our planet with their advanced technology would be too easy, so they set-up a three strikes and you're out challenge, in which we must defeat their video game henchmen in order to save humanity from complete annihilation. Of course, their message (in which we are told the rules of this deadly game) is only received by a sole conspiracy theorist named Ludlow (Josh Gad) and--you guessed it--gaming enthusiast Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) is called upon to save the world; if only that were the extent of its ludicrous mentality.

Image result for Pixels film stills

    Clearly, the subject matter here is treated in a comical fashion, yet the idea of alien life threatening our existence is certainly not that farfetched (as far as the film industry's standard for storytelling is concerned) and the notion of humanity's inescapable doom definitely provides feelings of melancholia for contemplating minds. (What I'm basically getting at here is that comedy and gloom do not mesh well.) "Pixels" can never decide which route it ultimately wants to take, and, unfortunately, this leaves us with several battle scenes with Earth's survival being the desired end, with little to no dramatic effect.

    I'm sure many critics have commented on the remarkable special effects that permeate the picture--statements that only allude to the current design of the film industry; all computer imaging and not a hint of human emotion. I mean, what do you want me to say? The integration of the special effects was terrific, but it could never distract from an inept script and from several casting decisions that still bewilder me to this moment. (Kevin James steps into the role of the president of the United States and we are supposed to take this seriously?) Assuredly, I guess, we aren't, but the part never allows James to do what he does best: Physical Comedy. James as president makes a computer generated Q*bert seem outright tangible.

    I have half a mind to blame director Chris Columbus (a damn good director at that) for this entire debacle; however, the blame really rests with poor writing and with an incompetent display of editing. (There is a scene in which both of these aspects come to fruition, as an unwarranted conversation between Sandler and a romantic interest cuts to a man's pixelated death and then back to this awkward moment of failed dialogue. The attempt of the former relies too heavily on the geek and girl cliche and not enough on actual wit.) At the end of the day, who could blame our extraterrestrial adversaries?

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