Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Ashley Benson, Jane Krakowski, Sean Bean
Plot: Aliens misinterpret a video of classic video games as a declaration of war attacking Earth using the characters from these games and leaving it down to gamers and lifelong friends Sam (Sandler) and Will (James) to use their videogame skills to defeat them and save the earth.
Review: For some reason much like M. Night Shyamalan the mere mention of Adam Sandler’s name being attached to any film is usually cause for the critics to start sharpening their knifes and while it’s true that he now seems to have settled into a routine with his comedies which appear to be based more around where he wishes to take his vacation and keeping his friends employed, let alone a bizarre obsession with “Hooters” which continues to show up in his films.
I’m not even going to try and convince you that this film is the one which see’s Sandler break away from his usual antics and gives us a ground breaking comedic experience as you certainly won’t get that here, neither the kind of surprise acting turn that we have seen him pull out of nowhere with the likes of “Punch Drunk Love” and “The Cobbler”. What we do get though is a fun and disposable comedy which shamelessly plays to the retro gamer fans taste for sure.
Opening in 1982 were Sam discovers that he can master video games by recognising the patterns and looks set to win the local video game championships only to lose to the obnoxious and egotistical Eddie Plant (Dinklage). Now flash forward to present day and Sam is working in home tech support setting up home cinema’s while best friend Will is now somehow the President of the United States….I did highlight this was an Adam Sandler movie right. Of course once the aliens invade Sam is of course the only person who can stop them, because seemingly no one else in the world plays old school video games.
Now armed with a bunch of hi-tech equipment Sam and Will team up with their other friend Ludlow (Gad) and former rival and still wildly egotistical Eddie to defeat the video game sprites which all take on the form of popular video game characters such as a giant Pac Man and Centipede with the weakness’s all matching their weaknesses in the game so hence Centipede has to be shot in the head while Pac Man has to be taken out by the mini coopers all assigned the names of the Ghosts from the game in one of the more memorable set pieces here.
All the cast are likable enough here with Sandler once more bringing his usual laid back comedic style while James and Gad are on hand for the more slapstick antics. Peter Dinklage meanwhile steals the show as Eddie as he constantly has something snarky to say and generally plays up his arsehole nature which seemingly has only gotten worse in the years which have passed since he beat Sam in the video game championships.
As I mentioned already this film really aims to shamelessly play up for the retro video game fans as it not only bombards the viewer with numerous refrences but also features cameos from cult figures from this world including former Donkey Kong World record holder Steve Wiebe whose battle to claim the title was so memorably documented in “King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” and who here puts in a cameo as a military scientist while Pac Man creator Toru Iwatani shows up as an arcade repairman while we also get a fictional version played here by Denis Akiyama due to Iwatani not being able to speak English.
While this film is certainly fun and has some standout moments it equally has some glaring flaws such as Eddie somehow being able to use video game cheat codes in real life with no explanation given to how exactly this is supposed to work. Equally frustrating is the fact we never see the aliens behind the attacks only their video game avatars so after Sam and co. beat Donkey Kong that’s it! No big reveal or anything while the fact that the video game vixen that Ludow unhealthy lusts over gets magically brought back via a morphing Q-Bert just felt too much like pandering to an audience who couldn’t handle any kind of downbeat outcome in the films ending.
While these flaws are frustrating it still does not make the film as bad as many critics would have you believe, perhaps having cast their judgement at the Sandler’s name being listed as the lead. However for old school gamers this is a fun disposable bit of nostalgia that doesn’t outstay its welcome while no doubt leave you wanting to dust off some of the games in your collection for another round.