Pixels (movie review)

Is this the only unbiased Pixels review you’ll read? Maybe. So pay attention.

Pixels isn’t a great movie, but it is a good one. It takes a silly concept and runs with it, and ends up an enjoyable diversion. The characters are simple. The plot predictable. The creativity is above average and the integration of classic video game logic even works most of the time.

Is it homophobic? No, not really. There’s a joke where Josh Gad yells at some soldiers, calling them “girls”. But that’s as much an element of Gad’s character reenacting scenes he’s seen a million times in a million war movies. There’s another about two tough guy soldiers hugging each other in fear, but it’s built on them being such colossal tough guy stereotypes that it’s more a commentary on the image than anything else.

Is it sexist? A bit. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test (but so many stories don’t, it’s easier to talk about the ones that do than all the ones that fail). It does have a woman character who cries at one point, though Sandler’s character is notably much more of a “loser” than she is. And the central female supporting character comes across as strong and capable.

Gad’s love interest is definitely a stumbling point, a virtual fantasy come to life with no dialogue, no motivation, and no personality. Charitably, it’s a dissection of the standard video game butt kicking lady who doesn’t exist much more beyond that. But it’s definitely the most problematic element of the film.

Is it racist? Meh. Not really. It’s not as inclusive as it should be, but again, most movies aren’t. Hard to pick on this one especially for that sin.

Is it bad fantasy? No. It’s mostly solid in its rules and how it works. Some of it requires a leap of faith. Being good at video games doesn’t mean you’re great at driving a car, for instance. And even shooting in a three dimensional grid versus a 2D game is very different. But this is the entire premise of the movie, and if you’re not willing to play along then there’s really not much the movie can do to win you over.

There are some rushed plot points, some weak contrivances here and there. But it’s a fun movie, creative film. And, yes, Sandler is a bit of a poison pill at this stage of his career, but if you can take it for what it is, I think it’s an enjoyable film with some good ideas, a few weaker ones, and one bad one.

Overall, a good movie. But even if one disagrees, calling it terrible is so ludicrous I can’t even begin to see where that’s coming from. Other than the feeding frenzy, pile on toward Sandler.

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