dir Chris Columbus; scr Tim Herlihy, Timothy Dowling
prd Chris Columbus, Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Michael Barnathan, Mark Radcliffe
with Adam Sandler, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Matt Lintz, Jane Krakowski, Affion Crockett, Ashley Benson, Serena Williams
release US 24.Jul.15, UK 14.Aug.15
15/US Columbia 1h45
Gamers: Sandler, Gad and Dinklage

monaghan james cox
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Pixels A decent idea is rendered pointless by a chucklead approach that emphasises boyish stupidity over everything else. It's directed by Columbus with considerable skill, deploying lots of whizzy effects while being seemingly oblivious to the shallow characterisations and the script's disturbing misogyny.

As children in the 1980s, Brenner (Sandler) and his pals Cooper and Ludlow (James and Gad) ruled the video arcade. Although Brenner lost the world championship to his cocky rival Eddie (Dinklage). More than 30 years later, Cooper is the US President and needs Brenner's help when aliens misread a video sent into space in a capsule, attacking Earth using vintage arcade games like Centipede and Pac-Man. So Brenner re-assembles the team, springs Eddie from prison and works with hot military leader Violet (Monaghan) to save the world as the alien attacks get increasingly insane.

For anyone who remembers these games, the imagery is impressive, transforming those flat images into two colourfully 3D pixelated set-pieces that generate some solid thrills. Although the rest of the film is a sloppy mishmash. From London to New York to Washington (the geography isn't exactly inventive), the alien attacks are utterly chaotic. There's never even a hint of a doubt how things are going to turn out. And the continuous stream of witty 1980s references will be lost on anyone under 50.

An early cameo by Dan Aykroyd signposts the fact that the filmmakers were aiming to make a modern-day Ghostbusters. Except that they forgot to include any interesting characters. Sandler does his usual sleepwalking routine, leaving a vacuum at the film's centre and sparking no chemistry with the equally tired James. Gad makes a Herculean comical effort, while Dinklage hams it up gleefully. And Monaghan is little more than feisty eye-candy. But she works twice as hard as anyone else on-screen, so Violet is the only character we care about (none of the other women are given actual dialog).

All of this plays out with very little ingenuity or energy, but at least there are some laugh-out-loud moments scattered here and there, usually due to a throwaway punchline. So in the end, this is little more than adeptly made cinematic fluff, eye-catching enough to keep us from being bored and vacuous enough to give our brains a rest. Thankfully, it never even tries to find a message.

cert 12 themes, language 29.Jul.15

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Pixels Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall