A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pixels is a sci-fi comedy starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James about a group of misfit, sometimes frankly creepy video game lovers who end up fending off an alien attack (in the form of giant classic video game characters). As per usual, Sandler plays an immature man/boy, this time one who never got over losing a video game championship as a kid in the '80s and now gets to redeem himself. There's explosive, destructive action violence -- Pac-Man eats his way through New York City, Centipede takes on Navy SEALs, a smurf gets shot with a laser and killed -- as well as fighting, weapons, and some fairly raunchy (and sometimes offensive) humor. Sexual innuendo includes talk of a three-way (though nothing is shown), and one character slaps others' butts. There's also a fair bit of social drinking by adults and some aggressive yelling and swearing, including "bitch," "sluts," and "s--tballs." Fans of Sandler, James, and gaming may find this Chris Columbus-directed movie somewhat entertaining, but it's not for little kids.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In the 1980s, a time capsule full of images and footage of life on Earth is sent into space, where it's intercepted by aliens. They believe it's an act of war and appropriate the video game technology to attack Earth. It turns out that the only people who can stop them are a ragtag group of arcade gamers (Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad) whose heyday was in the '80s. They work with the government to train the military to fight giant versions of classic video game characters -- including Pac-Man, Centipede, Donkey Kong, and Space Invaders.
Is it any good?
PIXELS may appeal to fans of Sandler, James, and '80s video games: It has a novel premise, and the action sequences can be entertaining. Especially fun is the climax, when Pac-Man chomps down on the streets of New York City and the gamers battle their foes in Mini Coopers. But the characters that should be holding the movie together aren't terribly likable. They're called "nerds" over and over again -- but that's only true if the definition of "nerd" is a slightly pathetic man who, in the case of Ludlow (Josh Gad), has possible serial killer qualities.
Sandler looks like he's not even trying, while James is both mildly amusing and totally unbelievable as the president. There are some funny scenes when the aliens try to communicate using '80s video footage, and Dinklage -- as a foul mouthed, mullet-sporting former gamer -- is both terrible and compelling. Bottom line? Teens and older tweens may like the action and silly humor, and fortysomething parents could find a few chuckles at the pop culture references, but this isn't anything new (or particularly impressive) from Sandler and co.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Pixels' violence. Does it have less impact because the bad guys are giant video game characters? Does exposure to violent movies or video games make kids more aggressive?
Are any of the characters role models? Are they intended to be? How can you tell?
Sam can't move past losing a video game competition when he was a kid. What do you do when you have a setback?
Talk about how different video games were in the '80s. Kids: Did your parents play video games when they were younger? Did you know what an arcade was before seeing this movie?
- In theaters: July 24, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 27, 2015
- Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some language and suggestive comments
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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