Sony’s quirky-looking Pixels will instantly remind people of Disney’s own video game-inspired hit, Wreck-it Ralph, released in 2012. That movie was a hit, a love letter to gaming coated in sweet, sweet Disney magic. Sony seems to be following in the recent trend of video games crossing into theatres (see Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, etc.). The trailer for Pixels starts off strong with a play on typical sci-fi movie conventions, complete with the tense theatrical score and gratuitous shots of space and alien aircraft. Pac-Man is resurrected as a gigantic ball of voxel terror. They had me, up until Adam Sandler showed up in a campy 1-up suit looking as uncharismatic as ever. When even Sony’s employees complain about your films, there might be a problem.
Now, to be fair, Pixels looks like it will have an ensemble cast that includes Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen), and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion from Game of Thrones). It also has charming CG effects on its side, but will that be enough? I found the trailer to be amusing, but I don’t know if what I saw will be able to carry a whole movie. Wreck-it Ralph was beloved by critics and audiences because it fused our fond memories of gaming into a movie that could have stood on its own. Without Toru Iwatani and a Nintendo licensing agreement, would Pixels still be worth watching? After watching that trailer, I was simply indifferent. Nothing blew me away, I didn’t find any of the jokes particularly clever, and even the highlight of the trailer fell flat. If this movie were about Toru Iwatani’s quest to tame Pac-Man and save the world, I might be more interested.
If being mediocre is a movie’s worst sin, than it is one I think Pixels might be grave danger of committing. It lacks any particular heart or charm. It looks like just another formula comedy with some cute references thrown on top. The gamer in me wants to be excited, but the movie itself just isn’t stirring up any feelings of fondness. When Sony has such a deep well of nostalgia to draw upon, that just doesn’t seem right. Of course, it has to be noted that this is only a trailer, and isn’t a conclusive barometer for what the full release will look like. It’s just not a great sign for me, although you might disagree.