'Pixels' Isn't the Worst Movie Ever: The Indefensible Position

Yeah, it's not great, but chill the F out, movie critics. 


Are you okay, critics? Feeling like you had a rough week? Forced to spend an hour-45 watching Adam Sandler fight Donkey Kong and then get paid for telling everyone what you think? Yeah, as far as personal tragedy, you’re like a step up from the legless vet begging for change on the street.

Because that’s the reaction it looks like you’re going for with the gymnastic vitriol you’re slinging at Pixels. Exhibit A is this viral bit of gleeful bombast that features such Lewis-Black-with-his-flight-canceled rhetoric as “it is cinematic strychnine, celluloid chlamydia” and “Pixels isn’t a movie — it’s a motherfuckin’ active crime scene.”

Oh, but you just wait. Other brave scribes were equally happy to throw themselves on this waddling grenade of a movie. “Take the basic premise from Galaxy Quest but swap out Star Trek with retro video games, throw in some nifty special effects and what could possibly go wrong? Three words: Adam F#%&ing Sandler,” writes Mashable.

“Of course, calling Pixels one of Sandler’s better movies is like calling a particular strain of Ebola somewhat less horrifically painful; either way, it’s not pleasant,” moans Las Vegas Weekly. “As executed, it’s like Contact meets Armageddon meets sticking knives into my eyes,” a Verge writer manages to type through the pain.

Look, I get it, I wish every matinee were Munich or In the Bedroom or, hell, another Age of Innocence. Even if Daniel Day Lewis played every last character in Pixels, it wouldn’t win an Oscar. (Picture the reaction when Adam Sandler does, inevitably, shuffle off this mortal coil and winds up in an Oscar memoriam montage, silently mouthing “Zibadeebooo!” in the gravitas conferred by time and tasteful black-and-white. After all, these are the same critics that couldn’t wait to tear into Chris Farley but now speak of him in a hallowed whispers.) But it doesn’t have to impress the Twitterati to be worth its two hours on an every-other-weekend for a balding dad and his 12-year-old who will need the Joust references explained later.

What we have here is essentially a harmless goofball film with an entertaining performance from Peter Dinklage, competent direction, a lot of jokes that don’t land, and a few jokes that made me chuckle. Assuming you don’t count the 30-year-old games themselves as products being advertised, there’s less product-whoring that I’d expect from a Sandler movie.

Adults who are interested in the trailer will dig the nostalgia. And little kids by and large care not about nostalgia because they aren’t old enough to know they have to be cool yet — they just like watching cartoons fight guys with lasers cannons, which — actually — is usually cool enough. Pixels is the C-student Ghostbusters, but that’s still high company to keep.

No one likes to hand out C’s, though, when it’s Billy Madison doofing around with Centipede. The critical reaction to Pixels rings like a call to convene an international military tribunal in Nuremberg for Sandler, Dinklage, and director Christopher Columbus. Which bums me out. It’s just a sloppy waste of talented writers.

The reviews sound like critics spent years on a Sistine Chapel of profanity, stringing together “cockholes” and “ass butters” and then absolutely unloading on a target this tepid. Geez, fellas, go take that novel you’ve been rewriting in the back of your head since your days as treasurer of the Sarah Lawrence College Democrats and put it on paper already.

It’s not obscene racism porn like Mandigo, or noxious spirit murder like I Spit on Your Grave playing sexual assault for titallation. It’s not Man of Steel shamelessly exploiting 9/11 imagery. It’s not even the top five for worst film this year. Take Home Sweet Hell where the big finish is raping a couple of kids for laughs. Waka. Waka. Waka.

That a clearly funny guy like Movie Bob spends 10 minutes flamethrowing a movie only to arrive at the Onionesque complaint that it’s bad because it fails to respect the video game characters — this is geek-culture dogma at its most high-minded and lowbrow. Yeah guys, fine, you’re the arbitrators of philosophical principals of cinema because you appreciate Pac-Man on a MUCH deeper level than I do. Either that or someone just needs a lot more tragedy in their lives.

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