‘Pixels’ Review

Sandler stumbles in kid-unfriendly romp

The new Adam Sandler comedy “Pixels” is relentlessly juvenile yet filled with ’80s flashbacks kids won’t understand.

The story features a mature flirtation between the main characters along with a CGI pet only a toddler will think is charming. It’s clearly aimed at young viewers, but arrives with a PG:13 rating.

Just who is “Pixels” supposed to entertain again?

The film’s gimmick is silly but novel. The earth is under attack by aliens gussied up like popular ’80s arcade games (think Galaga, Pac-Man and Centipede). That leaves Sam Brenner (Sandler), who once ruled the video game circuit, as mankind’s best defense. He’ll have some help from an old video game rival (Peter Dinklage), a fellow geek (Josh Gad of “Frozen” fame) and a military colonel (Michelle Monaghan) who flirts with our hero between pixellated attacks.

Just who is “Pixels” supposed to entertain again?

They’re working under the control of the president (Kevin James), a low-polling shlub who happens to be Sam’s best bud. Can their combined geek skills save the planet from an armada of familiar but lethal faces?

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All you need to know about “Pixels” is found in the logo that flashes in the film’s opening seconds. It’s a Happy Madison production, the Sandler studio behind most of his recent comedies. That means we’re faced with inane dialog, barrel-scraping laughs and inexcusably weak story beats.for-teens

Dinklage, bless his heart, steals what’s worth taking in the film as the egotistical gamer with an outdated mullet. Even he can’t do much with the story, a collection of strained set pieces that never should have reached the screen.

And what about the women of “Pixels?” Film scribes occasionally exaggerate Hollywood sexism. Case in point: A major British publication examined “Jurassic World” for how the female dinosaurs were depicted. The women in “Pixels” are either woefully clichéd (Monaghan), criminally underused (Jane Krakowski should fire her agent) or literally mute (Ashley Benson as a video game fantasy come to life). It would take three script rewrites to make these depictions merely insulting.

11805_thumbYes, seeing Donkey Kong and his brethren come to life is a CGI treat … for a moment. But then we’re left with Sam’s woe-is-me platitudes and coarse flirtations.

“Pixels” piles on the ’80s nostalgia until even Mr. T might say, “Uncle!” It’s brief fun to see how the aliens co-opt figures from the era to spread their message, but the summer movie-going crowd will likely need Google to make the proper connections.

Why would Hollywood bank so heavily on ’80s nostalgia when the 18-24 demographic has no emotional tiles to the decade? The bigger mystery is why Sandler is putting so little creativity into his troubled film career.

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