Director: Chris Columbus Starring: Adam Sandler, Josh Gatt, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Brian Cox and Sean Bean Studio: Columbia Pictures Rated: PG Running Time: 1 Hr, 45 Min You would think by now moviegoers would know better. But no, we keep punching ourselves in the face, over and over again, thus giving studios permission to keep writing bad cheques. And movie fans keep suffering as a result. It’ll be better this time we tell ourselves. It can’t be as bad as last time, it has to get better. It’s the cinematic equivalent of being in a bad relationship or being a Leafs fan; you sacrifice and persevere but your loyalty is rewarded only with disappointment and regret. I am, of course, talking about Adam Sandler movies. His latest big screen offering is the video game themed comedy Pixels, where he plays Sam Brenner, an arcade video game champ in 1982 who defeated classics like Pac-Man, Frogger and Space Invaders all the way to the world championships before running into by Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (eventually played by Peter Dinklage) for the top spot in the world. Fast forward to the present and Brenner is installing TVs for a living, his best friend and childhood sidekick Will Cooper (Kevin James) is now the president of the United States (with toilet bowl-level approval ratings) and he’s constantly reminded that he’s wasting his potential in life, especially when freshly divorced Lt. Colonel Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan, whose only purpose seems to be to provide middle aged gamers with eye candy and Sandler’s character with an unattainable but predictable love interest) drops into his life. But before Brenner can take fresh stock of his life, an alien force disguised as 1980’s video games attacks the planet, challenging Earth to a series of battles with the future of the planet hanging in the balance. Brenner and his teenage cohorts are forced into reluctant battle to defend-and save-the world. I’m not going to dissect the plot because, well, this is a summer comedy starring Adam Sandler about aliens invading the planet with 30-year old video games as their instruments of conquest. It isn’t supposed to make sense. But the operative word in that sentence is comedy, and other then a few chuckles, sight gags and Josh Gat (who plays gaming aficionado and conspiracy nut Ludlow Lamonsoff), Pixels fails to be funny. It’s mildly amusing in parts, but it often feels like the movie isn’t even trying to be funny. For the most part it feels like Sandler grabbed a bunch of his friends and a couple new faces and just hung out a little while, cracking inside jokes and reminiscing about the by gone days of video arcades (I lost track of the “in my day” jokes, informing the world how much Donkey Kong was superior to the likes of Halo and Call of Duty). It was almost as if Sandler was only looking to slap something together so they could attach a trailer for October’s Hotel Transylvania 2. Gat is amusing as Ludlow and Peter Dinklage does a decent job as a stereotypical 80’s testosterone-drunk video game jockey (and Brenner’s chief human nemesis), but even a Lannister can’t salvage this less then half hearted attempt at comedy (and Dinklage isn’t given much opportunity to anyway, with less screen time then the other chief players). And that’s the problem with this movie, it doesn’t even feel like it’s trying. No one, primarily Sandler, has any sort of investment or interest in Pixels. At least if the movie tried you could forgive its many, many failures, but outside of a handful of chuckle worthy moments, Pixels is little more then a love letter to a few classic video games and 80’s nerd culture (the nerd does, after all, get the girl in the end). The best way to describe Pixels is as a lazy walk down nostalgia lane for a bunch of Hollywood types who lost interest about half way through. It certainly isn’t worth the price of admission and if you can’t resist the unholy temptation to check Pixels out, well, this is a Tuesday half-pricer if there ever was one. Shayne Kempton

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