My 8 Bits Worth (Pixels: A Review)

Day 53. 161 pages, 58,131 words.

Mrs. Hatboy and I sat down to watch Adam Sandler’s feature-length live action remake of that one-third of a Futurama episode where What If Life Was More Like A Video Game, Pixels.

pixels_kong

Ambassador Kong was even there.

As you might have guessed, I was already inclined to be sceptical about this movie based on the fact that it seemed like a huge rip-off to me. And we already had Wreck It Ralph to make us happy about old school arcade games. But oh well.

Still, for all my scepticism and low expectations, this was not a horrible movie. Slipstream was a horrible movie. This one gave me a good solid chuckle every 5-10 minutes, and that ain’t bad for a movie with Adam Sandler[1] and that guy from that TV show in. Mainly what saved the movie was the supporting actors, specifically Peter Dinklage … although I will admit Kevin James wasn’t all that bad, Josh Gad was good for a laugh or two, and Sean Bean actually lived[3].

pixels_g

Dinklage turns everything he touches to gold. Everything.

[1] Adam Sandler gets a bad rap. I can really only state my own opinion, which is that I thought Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore[2] were funny back when I was a university student marinated in an assortment of socially acceptable drugs, and they still have something of a Tommy Boy nostalgic appeal. I also rather liked The Waterboy, and I didn’t hate The Wedding Singer and Fifty First Dates. Most of them, I admit, I liked either regardless of the fact that Sandler was in them, or despite the fact that he was in them, because his characters were usually annoying. However, that gradually changed in the latter movies and I like to think that he realised, as the years went by, that he had executive control and was able to cast himself in the less unbearable roles. Which is how we ended up with Pixels, where Sandler played a basic Nice Guy and Peter Dinklage played the role that Adam Sandler would have played in the early ’90s. Which was a winning formula.

[2] The founding films, in fact, of the Happy Madison film company that Sandler has apparently been using since 1999 to make these things. Who knew?

[3] Well, probably. I don’t recall seeing him at the end, so he may have died off-screen.

Yeah, the movie was alright. Some laughs, some fun special effects, and an interesting premise for alien life even if a) it was utterly and completely ludicrous and b) they didn’t really explore it particularly deeply. Which, under the circumstances, is fine.

pixels_q

And the ending, with Q*Bert, was just … all kinds of disturbing. No, Adam Sandler wasn’t the only person who thought so … but even he didn’t seem to want to stop what was clearly a thing that should never be.

While we’re on the subject of Q*Bert…

There was also a certain amount of shouting about sexism in this movie, which I rolled my eyes at a bit when I read the reviews … but then, on seeing the movie (and maybe because I was sensitive to it, but maybe not), ehhhh … yeah, it was pretty damn sexist. Mrs. Hatboy didn’t seem to mind and it didn’t alter her judgement of the film as “mildly amusing and not terrible”, so I decided I wouldn’t get my panties in a bunch about it either.

But it was definitely a thing. There was quite literally not a single female character in the movie who was not there to act as a trophy for a male character to win. Sandler’s trophy at least had a certain amount of backstory and facility – she was a high-ranking member of the military, a recently-divorced single mother and she could kick butt and take names – but she was basically there to snoot down her nose at him and then ultimately and inevitably melt when he was a big damn hero. Her purpose was to add a thin veneer of “…and they also totally have sex and are awesome” onto the hour and a half of extreme reinforcement of gamer male stereotypes that were outdated in the ’00s already, and to once again confirm the “nice guys always get the girl” meme.

James’s female foil, as First Lady, was a little more arguable … but then what do you do with a First Lady character? They mended their relationship and carried on strong, and I guess that’s nice. Dinklage’s trophy-female situation was funny, if you can afford to be amused by something like that.

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I was amused. And Serena Williams and Martha Stewart both seemed to have a sense of humour about it too.

And the less said about Gad’s trophy[4], the better. I mean, there was a certain ‘Jessica Rabbit’ entertainment value in it, and the ‘sad gamer geek in love with sexy female video game character’ cliché was strangely elevated by Gad’s performance into something almost but not quite epic and romantic and transcendent … but then that alien vanished and Q*Bert just changed his appearance to look like her, which both cheapened the emotion and made the whole idea horrific.

[4] Due to alien warrior values, the entities left behind on Earth were actually called ‘trophies’.

Ideally, the aliens being formed of a strange kind of energy left room for them to explain how the ‘spirit’ of Lady Lisa was able to merge with Q*Bert, thus enabling the energy to change and for him to become her, and maybe that was what happened … but it wasn’t really explained, it seemed pretty clear-cut that each sprite had different senses of identity that weren’t interchangeable, and then they reproduced and made a bunch of baby Q*Berts, suggesting that the change had really only been a superficial one. Which in turn cheapens the special love Gad’s character had for Lady Lisa, but can all be summed up in a single question:

Why?

A lot of the movie can really be summed up that way. But…

Enh. It was good for a laugh.

Now, you want to see a really disturbing real-life video game re-imagining, look no further than this gem right here:

 

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