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Family Movie Review: Pixels (PG-13)

Pixels ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): half popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 106 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. The film, about aliens who mimic the behavior of video game characters to attack Earth, has a good amount of violence (although it includes those video game characters, people are still killed, the Taj Mahal is destroyed, humans are taken as “trophies,” and there’s images from video games that include murder and blood); some cursing and bathroom humor, including a character urinating; some adult drinking, including drunkenness; and a disgusting amount of sexism, which is the film’s greatest offense. The female characters are purely treated as sex objects or property, there are numerous sexual jokes leveled at women or concerning homophobia; and overall the tone is very misogynistic.

Every summer movie season brings another terrible Adam Sandler movie, and ‘Pixels’ is 2015’s version. This inexcusable mix of terrible writing and worse sexism is one of the most repellent movies of the year.

By Roxana Hadadi

Adam Sandler clearly hates making movies now, and it would be nice if he could stop after “Pixels,” one of this summer’s inarguably horrible films. Sandler’s laziness and disinterest poison the film, which is terrible enough on its own, but when even its own protagonist can’t be committed to it? That’s an insurmountable problem.

Sandler (of the also unwatchable “The Cobbler”) stars in “Pixels” as Brenner, a one-time video-game champion, back when arcade games were all the rage in the 1980s. But his years of arcade dominance took a downturn when he lost a major tournament to rival Eddie (Peter Dinklage, of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”), and decades later, he’s installing audiovisual equipment while his childhood best friend, Cooper (Kevin James, of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”), has somehow bumbled his way into being President of the United States. So when aliens start attacking Earth in the form of old arcade-game characters like King Kong, Centipede, and Pac-Man, Cooper knows who to call.

In fact, it’s almost Brenner’s fault that the aliens are laying siege to our planet at all, since footage of the tournament he was in against Eddie ended up on a probe sent into space all those years ago; the extraterrestrials took it as a declaration of war and are now responding in kind. Since they can morph into any shape they want, the video-game aliens can wreck all kinds of havoc, like destroying the Taj Mahal (not that anyone seems to care, because this film refuses to provide context about what those outside the United States think of this destruction) and taking human beings as “trophies.” With the stakes being that the first side to reach three trophies wins, Cooper starts putting a team together to fight back.

Brenner leads the team, of course; why wouldn’t he when Cooper instructs the military to “Let the nerds take over”? Also in the team are Eddie, released from jail for hacking and promised a threesome with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart in exchange for his help (there are also some jokes about sex and chloroform, because implied rape is meant to be funny in this film); another gamer named Ludlow (Josh Gad, of “Frozen”), who is obsessed with a scantily clad video-game character who just happens to show up in the battle; and military commander Violet (Michelle Monaghan, of “The Best of Me”), who is only around to improbably fall in love with Brenner.

They’re tasked with saving the world, and if this all sounds very “Ghostbusters” to you, then you’ve picked up on exactly what film “Pixels” steals its plot from. (“Pixels” is actually based on a same-named short film from 2010, but it’s clear that “Ghostbusters” was referenced very often in putting this movie together.) And maybe it would be tolerable if it had any of the charm of “Ghostbusters,” but pretty much every character in “Pixels” is either a skeezy jerk making sex jokes, cheating, plotting sexual conquests, or just generally being an idiot.

Well, those are all the male characters; the women, in contrast, don’t get anything to do. Violet is an intelligent defense mastermind who cries about her divorce, drinks too much, and falls readily into Brenner’s arms when he pays attention to her; the only other female character is an alien who doesn’t talk and only exists to dress provocatively and be impregnated by Ludlow. It’s pretty disgusting, actually.

Young children will want to see “Pixels” because of how exciting and fun the commercials make the battle scenes look, and to be fair, the design is well-done; the pixel construction of the aliens is interesting and colorful, and you get a glimpse during the attacks of what kind of ridiculous fun “Pixels” could have been. But this is a movie that is offensive in so many irreconcilable ways that one or two good action scenes can’t make up for the terribleness of everything else.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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