It's really hard to write this review. There is so much about this film that is so over the top absurd that it’s even hard to take it. It looks back at the arcade life not with nostalgia but with ridicule. There is absolutely nothing interesting or redeemable in this film. My twelve year old son enjoyed it. Usually he is my scale and I reflect if I’m judging a movie too harshly. Not in this case. He and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one I had an hour and forty five minutes of misery but he enjoyed it. Full disclosure, I come from the era in gaming where you saved your money to go to an arcade and had to line up your quarters to play the fun new game this movie should be playing to my age.
I can sum up in two words why my son enjoyed it: special effects. Admittedly they were really good. When you see items disintegrating into pixels and video game characters fighting and interacting with real world environment, it’s seamless. It’s visually stunning. I was right there with him on the major eye candy.
Effects alone do not a movie make. You need a story and some good characters and some conflict and resolution to make a story. By the strictest sense of the definitions you can say that this film has those things but only if you look at it squinting and hold your head just right.
I think the biggest disappointment is the way “nerds” are tied to every 80’s stereotype. Yes this movie originates in the 80’s but the mindset of the world that the movie takes place in hasn’t progressed past the point of jocks looking down on geeks and nerds. It’s poking fun at nerds in a mean-spirited way.
Kevin James plays the president and it’s only through their childhood friendship that Adam Sandler's character is allowed to help. Yep it’s good to have friends in high places. Even Kevin James’s sad sack routine isn't enough to engage us in the movie. Adam Sandler plays his angry curmudgeon slinging zingers and one liners but it’s nothing new.
Peter Dinklage playas Eddie or “Fireball” as he likes to be called. Eddie took the title at the world video game championship. But he won because he used cheat codes. Well he decides he can use them in a real life fight with some real video game monsters. So he does, and this is where you lose me as a viewer.
In a video game you can use a code and change how you interact with the video game environment. He is playing in real life version of Pac Man, so the cheat codes shouldn't make him warp through solid buildings and jump around the game board that is the streets of New York. If cheat codes worked in real life I would totally use them. Here is another reason I don't care for the film. The fact I am debating cheat codes used in a real life fight with Pack Man.
Peter Dinklage can turn even a supporting role into cinematic gold but there is only so much he can do to pull the movie out of the pits. All of the performers did the best they could but the material was just not good. No matter how much your polish a turd it’s still a turd.
There seems to be no end to the just the odd jokes and awkward situations that were crammed into this movie without any regard to balance or structure. I would equate this movie to the Atari video game version of ET. Yes it has all of the same elements of a movie but it’s just not good. Adam Sandler should have deleted this script instead of trying to level it up.
If you need a memorable walk down video game lane go back and watch Wreck it Ralph it’s a much better film about video games.