This film has one of the most brilliant sounding plots that I’ve seen in a while. A time capsule sent into space one year in the 1980’s is discovered by an alien race and interpreted as a declaration of war through the footage of the main characters playing games such as Centipede and Pac-Man. Which causes them to send versions of the games as tests for the human race, ones they really don’t want to fail. Who better to take on this challenge than the high score champions of the games, who created the footage in the first place 30 years ago.
Adam Sandler plays Brenner, a video game savant when he was young, with a specialty for pattern recognition; which as it seems is exactly what you need to beat 80’s video games. Now he’s a TV/Computer repair/installation man, complete with bright orange polo and van. Next up is his best friend and current president Cooper, played of course by Kevin James, the bumbling loveable middle-aged guy who just wants to help; not much to talk about. Then there’s Josh Gad as Ludlow the video game genius turned government conspiracy theorist, and Peter Dinklage as Eddie the Fireblaster the official Donkey Kong champion and all around ass. Lastly there’s Michelle Monaghan as the Sandler love interest and last-minute team addition. As a team they’re not objectionable, but they’re also not the best ever created, it’s a middle-aged team made up of actors whose current successes are varied at best.
While Dinklage and Gad are hot off of Game of Thrones and Frozen respectively, they’ve both got flops on their IMDB pages; speaking of which there’s Sandler, past king of comedy and current resident of the car crash movie, and of course we’re not talking about actual cars. With his recent failures of Jack and Jill, The Cobbler, That’s My Boy and Men, Women and Children, this is a major improvement. James has been struggling to find a real hit too, with his biggest film of late being Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, enough said. Monaghan is a different story; she may not always be in the major films but she manages to find plenty of films that are middling, not awful but not anything to rave about. However the scenes between her and Sandler have some good banter and chemistry and despite the fact that Sandler’s acting these days doesn’t amount more than to what seems like the same attitude and facial expression 100% of the time the two of them make a very odd couple but it’s still believable.
Throwing the lot of them together in one film did make me sceptical at first, as I’ve said yes it has a brilliant plot but there was a tonne of opportunity for a good theory to be played out badly. At the outset, it’s got comedy, action, science-fiction and a huge dollop of nostalgia, so the question is with all that going for it, why wasn’t this film getting rave reviews across the board? Honestly it has a certain forgettable quality, it’s entertaining for the moment but not the film you want to be stuck watching on repeat. The actors each all have their own fan bases that are by no means miniscule, but their effort seems lacklustre and the choice of middle-aged men as our lead heroes maybe wasn’t as successful as was intended. There are some great, funny moments and it’s an easy watch, it’s trying to hit the goal that The Lego Movie achieved but not quite getting there.
An entertaining film but not one to shout about, it’s a step in the right direction for Sandler and James but it just didn’t have the impact it should have. (And as a 30 Rock super-fan the hugely poor use of Jane Krakowski as Kevin James wife is almost unforgivable, she has much more to offer than barely even having speaking parts in most of her scenes.)