There's nothing to admire about Hollywood's current, relentless flogging of "nerd culture"; it's a straightforward lunch-money shakedown. Nerds are the original brand ambassadors, quick to define themselves by the stuff they buy, dutifully on board for the remake, the sequel, the TV adaptation.
Maybe this is why we keep getting stuck with movies and books (hello, Ernest Cline) that insist on the marginalization of the nerd while simultaneously valorizing his unique and under-appreciated worldview. Hey everybody, turns out nerds are really great guys! Now go see Iron Man 7.
The basic conceit of Pixels, lifted from an enjoyable 2010 short film by Patrick Jean, is that aliens are attacking the planet using tactics learned from old-school arcade games. Enter Adam Sandler, Kevin James (as the president), Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad—a cliché ’80s kid misfit squad, now all grown up and ready to save the world. It's classic childhood wish fulfillment: Someday they're gonna be sorry. Or, even sadder: Someday the thing I loved as a kid will be important again. (Hey, when's the next Avengers movie out?) Creativity, diversity, eccentricity, passion—all the things that make actual nerd communities genuinely interesting—are missing; instead, our Nerd Squad is another gang of schlubby, entitled white dudes with strong opinions about women's bodies (sigh).
Pixels has a few good gags and a lot of lame ones: The action sequences are mercifully lighthearted, and watching Pac-Man chomp his way through the streets of New York is pretty fun. It also feels about 900 hours long, and the casual yet relentless misogyny is offset only somewhat by a shot of President Kevin James humiliating himself at storytime in front of a bunch of Girl Scouts. (Weird 9/11 callback, guys.) We also have Adam Sandler insisting twice that nerds are great kissers. Viva la nerd! Now give us all your money.