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Save your quarters: ‘Pixels’ a lazy, ’80s-baiting waste

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Welcome to the End of the World, Adam Sandler-style.

In “Pixels,” Earth is under attack by giant video game characters and the stakes couldn’t feel any lower. Mankind’s extinction is nothing a few cheap ’80s references, a slovenly attitude and some celebrity cameos can’t fix.

A tired-looking Sandler plays a former video game whiz who now installs home entertainment systems and is generally down on his luck. His childhood friend, played by Kevin James, grew up to become President of the United States, because this is an Adam Sandler movie and, of course, Kevin James is the President of the United States.

Together, they team up with a pair of fellow video game nerds to ward off an alien race who communicate through 1980s iconography — Max Headroom, “Fantasy Island,” etc. — and send real life versions of old arcade games down to wreak havoc on Earth.

And because Sandler’s character and his pals studied the patterns of those old school games — they were the only ones who did, apparently — they are uniquely qualified to save the world. All those smart people with their fancy degrees and those stuffy military types? They’re fools!

Like most Sandler movies, “Pixels” is proudly, defiantly lowbrow, a dismissal of intelligence that lazily celebrates schlubs and everyday Joes. Its references and soundtrack are locked in the 1980s, territory Sandler more successfully mined in “The Wedding Singer,” which may leave younger audiences scratching their heads. (Do kids know Q*bert?)

The bright spot is Peter Dinklage, who plays a Billy Mitchell-type rock star video gamer and sleazebag. Wearing his hair in a hideous mullet, Dinklage delivers all his lines in the cadence of an R&B loverman and effortlessly steals the show whenever he’s on screen.

Not that anyone else is trying that hard. In Sandler’s world, effort is for losers, and at this point he’s stopped trying to win.




Rated PG-13: for some language and suggestive comments

Running time: 106 minutes