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.

Just Go With It

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker
Directed by: Dennis Dugan (“Grown Ups”)
Written by: Allan Loeb (“The Dilemma”) and Timothy Dowling (“Role Models”)

Although it isn’t as unpleasant to watch as other Dennis Dugan-directed Adam Sandler comedies of the last few years (“Grown Ups,” “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”), there’s not much in “Just Go with It” to make you believe Sandler has any intention to give audiences anything more than the bare minimum. A remake of the 1969 comedy “Cactus Flower,” which landed Goldie Hawn an Academy Award,” “JGWI” goes for the cheap jokes and comes up with punch lines to match. Model/actress Brooklyn Decker might be the rom com’s selling point, but there aren’t enough slow-motion walks on the beach that can remedy the Sandler mediocrity.

Role Models

November 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Directed by: David Wain (“The Ten”)
Written by: David Wain (“The Ten”), Paul Rudd (debut), Ken Marino (“The Ten”)and Timothy Dowling (debut)

When you look back at some of the roles actor Seann William Scott has played over the years, the term “role model” isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind. Most of them tend to center around chauvinistic, moronic, and promiscuous characters. (His Steve Stifler alone probably caused fathers of high-school-aged daughters to scale way back on curfew hours.) In “Role Models,” his alpha-male tendencies are balanced out well with the softer Paul Rudd.

Working as energy-drink peddlers and anti-drug spokesmen, Wheeler (Scott) and Danny (Rudd) visit high schools to give students a caffeinated alternative to getting high. Wheeler loves his job as the company’s official mascot, the mythological Minotaur, because it allows him to half-ass his way through life and focus on more important things, like getting laid. Danny, however, is bored and frustrated, and it’s affecting his relationship with his successful-lawyer girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks), who is fed up with his resentfulness. When Danny reaches his boiling point (they have a little mishap with their company monster truck), he and Wheeler are sentenced to 150 hours of community service at Sturdy Wings, a Big Brother-type organization run by rehabilitated bad girl Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch).

There, Wheeler and Danny are matched up with two kids: Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka McLovin from “Superbad,” who avoids the Jon Heder “Napoleon Dynamite” typecast trap by actually staying funny after his nerdy breakout role), a lonely teenager caught up in his own little world of medieval role-playing, and Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a foul-mouthed grade-schooler raised by a single mother and obsessed with “boobies.” Ronnie has managed to scare off every one of his “bigs,” but Wheeler knows if he doesn’t get through this mandated mentoring program he’s going to be thrown behind bars, where he’s more than sure his pretty-boy image will attract unwanted physical attention. While Wheeler has trouble with his “little,” Danny is just trying to pass the time watching Augie pretend sword fight without really connecting with him on a personal level.

Many viewers might be unfamiliar with director David Wain’s comedy (he helmed and starred in the short-lived MTV series “The State” in the ’90s), but “Role Models” is a version of what he and some of the show’s original cast members can do with a more mainstream script. It’s not nearly as deadpan as “The State” (the vulgarities are many), but Rudd, as a first-time screenwriter who has probably been taking notes while on the set with director-writer-producer Judd Apatow on so many occasions, adds a hipper sense of humor and heart that has made comedies like The “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” more entertaining than your run-of-the-mill R-rated shtick.