Who's More Desperate For Your Laughs: Pixels vs. Trainwreck
I've seen two comedies in theaters recently, Pixels and Trainwreck, both with pretty different 'tudes of comedy style. Since you probably don't want to pay $37 TWICE for you and your loved one to see a movie with $10 popcorn and a half-gallon of soda (that's just the medium size, full gallon upgrade for $0.50 more), I'll try to answer as many questions from this bold, ominous voice in order to help you pick between the two.
So, I don't own a TV, and thus have never seen one of the 15 daily commercials for each of these movies, what are they about? Computer programming and railroad construction?
I wish! Trainwreck is the newest movie from Judd Apatow, that is starring and written by comedian Amy Schumer. If you have a lot of #millennials in your Facebook feed, I'm sure you've seen Schumer's sketch comedy in scattered YouTube clip form. I've personally never seen a full episode of her show, but the ten cream of the crop clips of her show that have made their way into my internet feeding cycle have been decently funny. Trainwreck is about a young lady who was kind of brainwashed by her dad (Colin Quinn) at an early age to never commit to monogamous relationships, so in her adulthood she kind of does what she wants and goes from guy to guy and never falls in love. RECORD SCRATCH. ...Until she meets a charming sports surgeon played by Bill Hader.
Pixels is the latest Adam Sandler project, about a former child video game all-star who grows up to amount to nothing more than a Nerd Brigade employee (Geek Squad spoof), until the world gets attacked by aliens who are in the form of classic 1982 video game characters. Oh yeah, NASA sent footage of 1982 pop culture into space, and the aliens took it as a declaration of war, for some reason. So, like, only Sandler and his three video game friends have the knowledge capable of defeating the aliens. Even though most of the skill required to win isn't even arcade game strategy, but more like being able to drive cars really well and being able to have precision gun shooting ability and being like super athletic and agile [holds Johnny Carson Carnac the Magnificent envelope to forehead] "Things Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Josh Gad are NOT... HEEEYYYOOOOOO."
Who are these movies made for, exactly?
Pixels is kind of weird in that it clearly has the comic sensibilities of a children's movie, but it's very obviously geared towards older people who grew up on classic arcade games. So, maybe it's geared at a middle-aged ex-Galaga fan who now has eight-year-old kids? I seem to recall there being some other movie recently that did this better...? Oh yeah, Wreck It Ralph! Wreck It Ralph did pretty much everything Pixels wanted to do but couldn't.
Trainwreck, on the other side of things, is an R-rated comedy clearly geared at an adult crowd. It's kind of great how there's almost nothing to suggest that it isn't just a straight up romantic comedy, but it has the feeling the entire time like it's trying to spoof romantic comedies. But really, it's a romantic comedy. I guess it's a date movie, too, as the theater was probably 90% couples when I went to see it. Except me, I was by myself, because my fiance doesn't like Amy Schumer. SO I LOOKED LIKE A LOSER.
Pixels was just a non-stop barrage of dumb celebrity cameos, like every Sandler movie, wasn't it?
Actually, this answer is more surprising than you think! Trainwreck was actually the empty parade of celebrity cameos from start to finish. Lebron James, John Cena, Amar'e Stoudemire, Marv Albert, Daniel Radcliff, Method Man, and many others. That's not to say they were all bad, but *some* of them were. Radcliff's cameo as a dog walker was pretty good, though.
Pixels didn't really have many cameos, actually, unless you count all the video game characters. "OH WOW, PAPERBOY!" "NEAT, PAC MAN!" "OH COOL, THE DUCK HUNT DOG...!" The only human cameo I can remember was Dan Aykroyd, and he didn't even tell a joke. His glass skull Crystal Head vodka product shows up later in the movie, though.
Just how bad was that Marv Albert scene in Trainwreck?
It's a definite candidate for worst scene in any movie this year. Just to fill you in, Lebron James throws an intervention for Bill Hader's character, and invites Marv Albert, Chris Evert, and... Matthew Broderick...(?) along for some bad jokes. Marv Albert stands there and does play-by-play announcing on what everyone was doing in a scene that might have looked better on paper (though, I really doubt it). But after actually watching it, Apatow should have removed it from the final cut of the film. And again, why three athletes and Matthew Broderick? Huh?
But you could probably come up with something worse that happened in Pixels, right?
Well, let me put it this way, Kevin James plays the President of the United States. [looks at you for a reaction][waits patiently][clears throat] KEVIN JAMES PLAYS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
And he's not even the worst character in the movie, is he?
Nope. I think it's a tie between (sadly) Peter Dinklage's over-the-top southern sleaze ball character, and Josh Gad just being himself.
How many terrible performances have there been since Josh Gad won over everyone with Book of Mormon, now?
I'm starting to question whether he was *actually* all that good in Book of Mormon? Are you people who saw him on Broadway just saying that? Or if he truly was, I think we're now at the point where we can stop saying "He was good in Book of Mormon!" as some sort of defense. WAS HE? WAS HE, NOW? WELL, THAT'S GREAT. HE'S AWFUL IN EVERYTHING ELSE.
How much did you actually laugh during these movies?
I laughed a bunch of times during Trainwreck. And they were outward, hearty laughs. There's lots to like in between a reasonable amount of fluff. The scene with Tim Meadows cracked me up real hard, I definitely laughed by myself louder than any of the couples. On the other side, I *think* I may have chuckled two or three times during Pixels... But I couldn't even recall at what.
Was there *anything* you liked about Pixels?
I did enjoy the special effects. They were neat. I don't know if I'd go further than that. Very neat. I guess in a really dumb way, it was entertaining enough to hold my attention, but we are at a point in our society where we can watch hundreds, if not thousands of other films just as mildly/pointlessly entertaining as Pixels, instead of Pixels. So why bother with Pixels?
Well, like, what are some examples of how dumb it is?
As I'm sure you may have seen in the trailer, they fight Donkey Kong at the end. And this throws Sandler off because, as the movie says out loud "Donkey Kong... The one game you suck at..." When, in actuality, he was the second best Donkey Kong player in the world. He just didn't have confidence because he lost to the first place guy. So... I think if you're the freaking second best Donkey Kong player in the world YOU'RE STILL AMAZING AT IT.
BUT THEN, to further the dumbness I mentioned earlier; beating arcade game Donkey Kong requires none of the skill that was required to beat the life-sized alien Donkey Kong, because it more involved being able to PHYSICALLY jump over many barrels, climb ladders really fast, and dodge fast moving objects with agility. I'm not sure how Sandler's schlubby, middle aged character was a better candidate for this job than like a Navy Seal squad? Because he knows what Donkey Kong is? Everyone knows what Donkey Kong is.
That's ANOTHER thing, they bring on these arcade game nerds to train the army about what these games are, as if they couldn't research and figure it out themselves in five minutes. And then the actual fighting involves just being able to shoot accurately and drive vehicles really good. Things the military has NO training in, right? If you shine light on these kinds of things, I almost completely hate Pixels. Also, bumbling klutz Kevin James is the President of the United States.
Did any of Sandler's tag-along lackies show up for the free paycheck?
Surprisingly not. I did not see Peter Dante, Allen Covert, or Jonathan Loughran anywhere. Nor the upper tier moochers like David Spade, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, or Henry Winkler. I guess you can count Kevin James, if you want. But I mean, SOMEONE had to play the president.
When was the last time you even paid to go see an Adam Sandler movie?
I just looked up his filmography, and this was the first Adam Sandler movie I've paid to see in theaters since last year's Men, Women & Children (to be fair, that wasn't really his movie). Before that was 2009's Funny People. And before that was, whoooaaa, 2002's Mr. Deeds? I've looked it over a few times now, and I can't think of anything in between that I've seen in theaters. Don't get me wrong, I've seen most of his past 10+ years of crap at home, but I've only seen four Sandler movies in theaters since 2002. At least I don't feel like part of the problem in that regard.
I feel like we're talking too much about Pixels, what was so good about Trainwreck?
I liked Trainwreck because in between the forced Lebron jokes and extended celebrity cameos, it still felt sincere. It had genuine moments. And I mean like genuine heartfelt moments, too. If they made this movie 30 minutes shorter, and much more focused; it could have been one of the best, generic(ish) romantic comedies I've ever seen. It also helped that Bill Hader is awesome and deserves to be one of the main characters in more movies. Also really good: Colin Quinn. And I liked the ending. It was kinda JUST sloppy enough overall for me to not call it a great movie. But it was pretty good.
So, you'd recommend Trainwreck, but not Pixels?
Yeah, I guess. I actually think Trainwreck was broad enough that most people (EVEN OLD PEOPLE) would probably enjoy it, despite its occasional raunchy scene. Well, people like raunch anyway, don't they? Quit trying to act so proper, jerk! What, is your monocle going to fall of your face if you see Amy Schumer having sex in a movie?
I personally wouldn't recommend Pixels, mostly because it's a bad movie. But if you have the insatiable urge to see Q-Bert and Centipede and Pac-Man in a movie... Well, you probably already went to go see it. For the rest of you... ...You don't need to see those characters badly enough to pay to watch Pixels. Trust me.
Please feed the bold, ominous voice some arbitrary scores, so people can skip to the bottom of this review and not read anything else you've written here.
You got it. Trainwreck is an 8 out of 10. Pixels is a 5 out of 10.
Speaking of Josh Gad, I recently watched the complete first season of "The COmedians" on FX on demand. It has Billy Crystal and Josh Gad playing versions of themselves, in a fake reality show about them collaborating on a sketch comedy show.
The studio imposes Gad on Crystal, because let's face it, Billy is old and Josh is young and popular mainly due to playing the snowman in frozen. The show is a cross between Extras (Ricky Gervais playing an actor who can't catch a break with lots of celebrity cameos and fake movie scenes) and whatever that Matt LeBlanc show on HBO is, in which Matt plays a version of himself shooting a horrible sitcom, interacting with a quirky group of tv execs and creatives, with lots of celebrity cameos.)
So why exactly does tv need another one of the same thing? I don't know.
To his credit, Josh Gad pokes fun at the fact that 1600 Pen was not very good and that people often mistake him for Jonah Hill. Come to think of it, I was surprised to hear that Josh Gad was not actually being played by Jonah Hill, but is in fact an actual different person.
The fake comedy sketch clips are truly funny and like Extras, they are shot differently so as to look like an actual tv show.
There is a thread about Pixels going on over at the Business and Marketing forum, by the way.
Pixels sounds a lot like 1980's video game "Dragon's Lair," the first video game to have cut scenes played off laser disc. You paid $1 to play the game just to see the awesome cut scenes because they were cool, but the rest of the game was not that interesting.
Now if only they would make a movie based upon the excellent 1979 vector Star Wars game. Flying a spaceship down a trench to shoot a missile into an exhaust port would be a great sequence in a movie!!
I used to be great at that star wars game, which really made you feel like you were re-creating that movie scene. Also pretty good at the sit-down version of the Star Trek Battle simulator that used similar technology.
Dragon's Lair, and it's sci-fi sibling, "Space Ace" was the most difficult and expensive game in the local arcade. The whole thing was animated by Don Bluth and looked awesome, playing off of laser disks in super high definition compared to anything else in that time period.
The thing is, it turned out to be a horrible game.
There was no strategy at all involved: you'd be presented with a scene where the knight has to evade a trap or fight a monster, and the game play was fixed: if you hit the correct combo of moves just at the right time, you move ahead, otherwise, you died, quite elaborately. The scenes were presented in random order, but each one always worked identically, because the laser disk programming was primitive at the time. At a dollar a play, with limited extra lives, I probably spent ten bucks one summer, trying to get at least halfway thru the thing, until I had a moment of clarity:
"There is no strategy to this; It's just a kind of skinner box, training me to hit a button on a cue, like a mouse working for a food pellet. If I win, it's not because I was smarter, just that I've paid someone all these quarters, just to have the chance to memorize some button presses. That's sad."
Similar reason I don't play pac man - it's all about working a pattern, not really engaging any strategy.
And I never played those two games again.
Years later, I programmed an interactive DVD training video with a game-quiz theme to it, and I used the same kinds of principles for the branching of the Q&A as I had experienced in the laser disk game. But it was a test of knowledge, not reflexes and muscle memory.