By Nathan Kamal | 9 seconds ago
Adam Sandler is perhaps the movie star who cares the least about what people think of him. While facing stiff competition from Harrison Ford’s late dour and Samuel L. Jackson’s complete and absolute willingness to do any project thrown at him, Sandler has spent his career demonstrating that he will do any film he feels like doing, regardless of criticism opinion, good taste or really anything but its potential for paid family vacation and product placement. Sometimes that means he makes unexpected decisions, like the 9/11 survival dramarule over me or a magical realist film about Jewish immigrant identity starring Method Man. But more often, Adam Sandler’s own oddball muse brings him to films like pixel. The 2015 alien invasion/video game comedy is streaming free on IMDB’s Freevee platform and is currently in the top 10 most watched movies.
pixel Stars Adam Sandler as Sam Brenner, a former kid’s arcade game champion-turned-sad sack home theater installer who is also the best friend of the President of the United States of America. As you might expect pixel is not a film that takes itself very seriously; The President is played by Sandler pal Kevin James, who is introduced in a riff about George W. Bush’s famous decision to continue reading to a classroom of children when he was briefed on 9/11. While Adam Sandler and Kevin James’ pairing has frequently led to films like the queasy gay panic comedy I’m pronouncing you to Chuck & Larry now and the various adultthey actually play well here as childhood friends whose life paths have diverged greatly, yet remain bizarrely close.
The plot of pixel begins with the young version of Adam Sandler discovering his video game talents in a 1980’s arcade, only to be defeated by a flamboyant, arrogant challenger named Eddie “The Fireblaster” Plant, who is clearly modeled after real-life video game champion Billy Mitchell is. For some reason, their championship game is recorded and thrown into space, after which aliens apparently find the recording, take it as a challenge, and invade Earth. The aliens communicate via CGI footage of 1980s celebrities like Madonna, Hall & Oates, and Ricardo Montalbán, and use the patterns from games like Pac-Man and Centipede to attack. Adam Sandler assembles a team that includes conspiracy theorist Josh Gad and adult Firerblaster (played by a very dedicated, very subtle Peter Dinklage), and the literal games are underway.
During the elevator pitch for pixel could have been as simple as Adam Sandler Defends Earth From Arcade Game Aliens, it was actually based on an award-winning 2010 French short film of the same name by Patrick Jean. Not surprisingly, Adam Sandler and his longtime Added collaborator Tim Herlihy lots of over-the-top jokes and Michelle Monaghan as a military weapons developer and single mother for a love interest. Still, Pixels is a surprisingly strange movie, with all of its constant references to pop culture and the heist of Josh Gad. Far too often the film stalls for Gad to perform endless schticks, but it also has admirably bizarre moments like Dinklage longingly asking if he can murder the adorable 3D Q*Bert; Adam Sandler immediately tells him no and that they must learn to understand the extraterrestrial being. Then they can kill him.
It’s that kind of weird darkness that’s underlying even the most family-friendly Adam Sandler films. So does a scene where an angry general, played by Brian Cox, yells, “You heard Hall & Oates! You screwed it up!” upon learning of Earth’s imminent destruction. And perhaps the strangest and funniest of all is a scene where a giant, pixelated, hostile Pac-Man confronts his Pac-Man creator, Toru Iwatani (who played Denis Akiyama as the mysterious genius, while the real Toru Iwatani played in the beginning actually made cameo appearances in the film ) expressing his belief that Pac-Man is kindhearted and the true son of his heart, only to bite his hand off and run away screaming is another good example of the kind of subversiveness that manages even sneak into a movie pixel.
pixel was another box office success for Adam Sandler, grossing nearly $250 million. As you’d expect, it wasn’t well-received by critics and currently holds a dismal 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. But despite all that Josh Gad and product placement for 2015 Mini Cooper S 3-door, pixel is a surprisingly strange and dark film. Luckily, you can decide that for yourself, free of charge.