Much to my surprise, I am going to pay this film the highest compliment that I have ever paid to an Adam Sandler comedy: I didn’t hate it.

I have always felt that Sandler is actually quite a good dramatic actor. Anyone who watches Punch-Drunk Love or Reign Over Me, having only ever seen his comedies, is in for a massive shock. Just look at Todd James’ surprised and positive review of The Cobbler.

The trouble, is that whenever Sandler does one of these great films, he immediately goes back to his same old crappy comedy routine that inexplicably brings in just enough money for him to make another one. Make no mistake Pixels is one of those, although at the upper end.

The premise is decent enough; in the early 80’s NASA sends a probe out to look for alien life and on it is a bunch of pop culture stuff, including some (now) classic arcade games. For whatever reason, the aliens that find the probe, take the games as a declaration of war and send real manifestations of those arcade characters to Earth in a winner takes all series of challenges. Faced with global destruction, the President of the United States (played inexplicably by Kevin James) assembles some arcade world champions to fight the alien invaders.

Pixels Review
Adam Sandler tries to make Pac-Man laugh.

I grant you the concept is a little out there but there’s definitely enough there to make a decent film and to some extent it works. The action scenes where the likes of Pac Man and Donkey Kong attack are actually pretty decent. What lets Pixels down are the comedy and “dramatic” moments in between.

Sandler, as he has in every one of his comedies for over a decade, phones his performance in. Unfortunately, this time, there are people with acting talent around him actually making an effort and despite the token, clichéd roles that Peter Dinklage and Michelle Monaghan are lumbered with, they highlight how little effort Sandler is putting in. Kevin James, despite his improbable casting is less over the top than normal and so doesn’t embarrass himself. Josh Gad on the other hand, seems to have been told to scream every line and quickly gets annoying.

Pixels Review
Oh look, there’s the Fantastic Four Box Office results…

Frankly, I went in with very low expectations (which, admittedly, may have helped) and came out, if not happy , then at least not irritated. While the comedy was flat and some of the performances lazy, I was entertained enough that the experience was still worthwhile. If you’ve got a couple of hours to burn, you could certainly do worse ***cough, Hot Pursuit, cough****.