Pixels

July 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage
Directed by: Chris Columbus (“Home Alone”)
Written by: Tim Herlihy (“Happy Gilmore”) and Timothy Dowling (“Just Go With It”)

Sure, the big-screen’s “Pixels” is ostensibly based on a short film of the same name, a glorified demo reel that features classic arcade characters attacking New York City, but in reality the film is a rip-off and re-skinning of four superior products that came before it. Take the “aliens misunderstand vintage media as how Earth really works” inciting incident from “Galaxy Quest,” season liberally with the crumbs of classic video game nostalgia left behind by “Wreck-It Ralph,” hint at the underdog spirit of the guy who just can’t beat the brash, be-mulleted bad guy in “The King of Kong,” lift, well, pretty much the entire plotline of one segment of an anthology episode of “Futurama”—called “Raiders of the Lost Arcade”—and toss in an indifferent, fading movie star in Adam Sandler and you’ve got the recipe for “Pixels,” a boring excuse for a summer movie that thinks talking about Donkey Kong or Pac-Man appearing on screen as they appear on screen is entertainment in and of itself.

The movie begins somewhat promisingly in 1982, when young Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito here, Adam Sandler as an adult) and his best pals Will Cooper (Jared Riley, grown up as Kevin James) and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Jacob Shinder, Josh Gad grown up) ruled the local arcade with their skills. Sam was so good, in fact, that he was able to compete in the video game world championship that year, only to lose his Donkey Kong game in the finals to Eddie Plant (Andrew Bambridge as a kid, Peter Dinklage as an adult), a flashy, arrogant video game rock star. Thirty something years later, Sam never really recovered, living his existence as a lowly flat screen TV installer instead of doing something meaningful with his life. That all changes, though, when Cooper—now the goddamn President of the United States, for some reason—calls upon Sam’s expertise to battle video game villains who somehow mistook a time capsule video of classic arcade games as an act of war.

“Pixels” could have been something special, but alas, director Chris Columbus (himself a faded star) seems content in just referencing classic video game characters instead of exploring why they would be doing what they’re doing as bad guys and what such a retro-gaming friendly alien invasion would mean. The movie treats Sandler and crew like the only people on the planet that understand Pac-Man, for crying out loud, as if iterations of the game haven’t been released on every single video game console for the last 30 years. Summer special effects movies can get away with being a lot of things: stupid, childish, shallow, and so on, but the cardinal sin is to be incredibly boring, and “Pixels” is just that. Download Pac-Man or Donkey Kong to your phone and play those for an hour and 45 minutes instead.

Bedtime Stories

December 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kerri Russell, Guy Pearce
Directed by: Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”)
Written by: Matt Lopez (“The Wild”) and Tim Herlihy (“Mr. Deeds”)

When are actors, directors, and filmmakers in general going to learn that after they pop out a few kids with their significant other, they don’t necessarily have to take a step back during their children’s formidable years and think to themselves, “You know, I’d really like to make a movie my kid could watch.”

It’s hard enough to make a family film for parents and kids with IQs above, say, 35, but it’s probably even more difficult when you have something as precious as good intentions invested into the project. Remember the Robert Rodriguez 2005 debacle “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D,” a movie written from a story conjured up by his 8-year-old son? Even innocent ideas can be irrefutably toxic.

In “Bedtime Stories,” director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) and screenwriters Matt Lopez (“The Wild”) and Tim Herlihy (“Mr. Deeds”) make such a disaster on screen, it’s hard to really point fingers at anybody since the primary concept for the film seems to have been scribbled down by kindergarteners working on writing shifts.

Maybe that’s the idea Lopez and Herlihy wanted to convey, but in “Bedtime Stories” even the uber-dorky Adam Sandler doesn’t seem like the right match against the grab bag of nonsense tossed around so effortlessly. In the film, Sandler plays Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman who agrees to babysit his nephew and niece for his sister Wendy (Courtney Cox) even though he hasn’t seen them in four years. Since the kids are forbidden to do anything fun or time consuming like watch TV, Skeeter tells them a bedtime story, a story which the children happily add their own ideas to the narrative. But when the kid’s embellishments to the story start coming true (the script gets really sketchy here), Skeeter tries to use the newfound magic to manipulate a few things to go his way.

There’s plenty more grizzle and fat in “Bedtime Stories” that won’t hurt to omit since it makes no bearing either way on the topsy-turvy mess. This includes a bland romance between Skeeter and his sister’s friend Jill (Kerri Russell) and some terrible CGI effects a la “Alvin and the Chipmunks” featuring a wide-eyed hamster who gives new meaning to annoying. Actually, Rob Schneider gives new meaning to annoying, but he’s not nearly in this as much as the rodent.