Jack Graves details the sad decline of Q*bert’s movie career…
Fat guy f*cks Q*bert.
I’ve tried to write this review/analysis/whatever several times now, but every time I’ve tried I’ve opened up Word and typed ‘fat guy f*cks Q*bert’, stared at it for a moment, then closed Word. And really, if you’re looking for a succinct verdict on Pixels, that’s all you need to know. Fat guy f*cks Q*bert.
I’d guessed going in that Pixels was going to be bad, but tried to keep an open mind. I’ve enjoyed Adam Sandler movies in the past – and not just the good ones, like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison. I enjoyed The Longest Yard, where Stone Cold Steve Austin is a racist, and Bill Goldberg has a long penis. I enjoyed The Waterboy, a film that taught me just enough about american football to pick up on some of the jokes in The Longest Yard.
But Pixels isn’t dumb-but-funny, or average-but-entertaining, it’s shit. To elaborate a little more, it’s f*cking shit.
The press screening had an event beforehand, with free beer and free arcade machines, which is pretty much what dragged me in to see it. The free beer turned out to be Budweiser, but still. Props to the staff of the Empire for putting on a nice event, even if it was for a garbage movie. Before the film the Chief-Something-Marketing-Something of Sony came out, lit in the sort of grimy blue-green spotlight you’d use for the corpse at the start of an episode of CSI, and he spoke to us. He told us that first we would be seeing the trailer for the new Bond movie. It would not be in 3D. Then we would be seeing a trailer for a Michael Bay movie. It would be in 3D. We would enjoy these trailers he said. They would be good trailers.
Then he left.
Pixels is a movie about space aliens taking the form of popular arcade characters to invade the earth, and it’s up to 80s nerds to save us. It’s a dumb premise, but it could have made an entertaining movie. The characters seem to be mostly borrowed from the cult indie documentary King of Kong, in which people compete for the world’s highest Donkey Kong score.
Peter Dinklage’s character is a picture perfect imitation of King of Kong‘s semi-antagonist Billy Mitchell, the only real differences being that Peter Dinklage is a dwarf, whereas Billy Mitchell is not, and Billy Mitchell is an interesting and unsettling character, whereas Peter Dinklage’s character is not. I’m not sure why Dinklage was cast in the role – he’s a great actor, but the role is awful. I’m a little worried they cast him because he is a dwarf, and they thought it’d make the character look funnier. I could be being over sensitive on his behalf though, I’m sure he liked the money a lot.
Sandler plays a manchild who constantly makes fun of a woman (who turns out to be a high ranking military official) for not wanting to kiss him because he’s a loser. That is, she doesn’t want to kiss him because he is a loser, but I’m sure he also makes fun of her because he is a loser. I’m not sure what his virtues are, beyond being good at defeating videogame aliens, but the movie leads us to believe he has some. Sandler has reached some kind of peak of naturalistic acting, where it’s naturalistic in the same sense that really good taxidermy is naturalistic. Yeah, it looks like the thing did in life, but it’s dead and held in shape by metal rods and fluff.
Josh Gad (of Book of Mormon fame) plays another manchild who is obsessed with conspiracy theories (for some reason) and ‘Lady Lisa’ (a videogame character I think they invented for the film), and he chloroforms people. Because he’s crazy. But when Lady Lisa appears to attack earth, he somehow wins her over with his ‘charms’. Even though in an earlier (actually pretty funny) scene, the creator of Pacman fails to win over Pacman. And then Pacman eats his hand.
Peter Dinklage’s character is also a loser manchild, but there’s a running joke that he made up his own nickname (Fireblaster), and he wants to have sex with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart at the same time, I guess cause they’re ‘unconventional’ women and he’s supposed to be weird. (Incidentally, spoiler alert, he gets to f*ck them at the end. All of the characters get to f*ck who they want, even though they’re unappealing and not really funny.)
I could genuinely imagine the genesis of Pixels being a movie company exec pitching “King of Kong saves the world!” last thing at night, as the cocaine residue is being swept up and the hooker is paid and sent home. I gather some executive emails about the creation of Pixels have been leaked, but I haven’t read them. I don’t really want to remember the movie. From what I gather, Sandler mostly makes movies because he likes making movies. Which is fine with me. He gets to put his friends in them, and it’s generally a good time for all involved. Except, in this case, the audience.
The key problem with Pixels is that it just isn’t funny. It has a lot of problems. It’s themed around 80s games and how only 80s gamers can save the world, but they get a lot of the basic details of those old games wrong. But that’s nitpicking, and if the movie had been funny it wouldn’t have bothered me. It’s offensive on many levels, it’s racist, misogynist, most of the other -ists, but again stuff can (usually) get away with being offensive if it’s funny enough. But it’s not funny, it’s just crass. Which is odd, considering the movie seems to be at least 50% pitched to children. I say 50% because I’m not sure who the movie is for. It’s not adult enough (either in the intellectual sense or the ‘euphemism for sex stuff’ sense) in its humour for the people who actually played the 80s games during the 80s, but it’s also got too much boring ‘romance’ and Adam Sandler ‘talking stuff’ in it for kids to really enjoy.
At the end of the film Q*bert is won as a trophy by the forces of earth, manifesting as a combination of Jar Jar Binks and Snarf from Thundercats, I guess he’s there for the kids, but he’s annoying, he pisses himself, and then Josh Gad f*cks him.
Josh Gad f*cks Q*bert, and that is what it all comes down to.
(The visual effects were very good though, the pixel aliens looked good and their kinetic energy and interaction with the physical world was convincing and never jarring. It always bugs me when movies like this come out and are very well produced, but then turn out to be so shit that nobody who did good work on them really wants to put them on their CV).