All These Things Actually Happen In Adam Sandler’s Pixels

All These Things Actually Happen In Adam Sandler’s Pixels

As you have likely heard, Pixels is a bad movie, almost pleasingly stupid. After watching it last night, I had more fun retelling the plot to my wife, who had never heard of the movie, than I did sitting through Pixels. I am now going to spoil it, all of it, so that you don’t go see it.


In 1982, a young Brenner (Adam Sandler) and a young Cooper (Kevin James) pedal to a new arcade called The Electric Dreams Factory, located next to a Video Visions. We see cabinets of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, Qbert, Defender, etc. Cooper pulls a Chewbacca mask from a claw/crane game, and Brenner discovers he is a Billy Mitchell-level arcade talent. A third boy, Ludlow the “Wonder Kid,” has a crush on Lady Lisa, a pixelated, blonde Xena-like character from a mythical game called Dojo Quest.

Brenner enters himself into the 1982 worldwide arcade championships, where he loses a tiebreaking Donkey Kong title bout to Peter Dinklage’s character, Eddie Plant, who has nicknamed himself The Fireblaster and enters the arena flanked by two leather-pantsed girls.

Dan Aykroyd emcees the tournament and announces that footage of the games will be included on a probe that is being sent into space.


Flash forward to the present, where Kevin James/Cooper/”Chewie” is an unlikely president of the United States, a George W. Bush-like figure who struggles to read children’s books at elementary schools and is booed by bystanders for a foreign war.

Brenner works for the Nerd Brigade, a Geek Squad-like company that sets up A/V equipment for people. Chewie tells him, oddly, that high-level video-game playing has no monetary value anymore, that it is an outmoded skill like blacksmithing.

For his Nerd Brigade job, Brenner goes to Michelle Monaghan’s house to install a PlayStation and a 4K television for her son, who has received these gifts to make up for his parents’ looming divorce. Brenner tries to seduce Monaghan’s character, Violet, in a closet. Violet rebuffs him but is clearly charmed by the advances of a contractor in her house. Brenner tells her that nerds are better kissers.

Simultaneously, creatures from Galaga attack Guam.

The president calls Brenner and summons him to the White House for his retro arcade expertise. Violet turns out to be a Darpa scientist, and they head to the White House together.

In the Pixels universe, Galaga is deemed to have been glitchy in 1982 and therefore was recalled and replaced with new machines in 1986. Brenner notices that the attacking aliens resemble 1982 Galaga, a version that doesn’t exist anymore. This persuades no one of anything.

The other friend from Act I, Ludlow, persuades Brenner to visit his home. Ludlow still lives with his mum, in a room papered with articles from the Weekly World News. He is a conspiracy nut who believes there is a pyramid under the Hoover dam and that the Zapruder film has been edited to remove evidence that “JFK shot first.” Ludlow has been investigating the Guam invasion by reading 4chan and watching reruns of the CW’s One Tree Hill on videocassette. During one of the episodes, the aliens communicated with Earth by speaking through images of Ronald Reagan, Tammy Faye Baker, and Desperately Seeking Susan-era Madonna.

Then the aliens destroy the Taj Mahal using Arkanoid.


The president summons Brenner and Ludlow to the Oval Office. Darpa has been analysing the alien attacks and has invented light guns that can destroy them. President Chewie asks Brenner and Ludlow, the “civilian arcaders,” to help train the Navy Seals who are going to fight the next alien invasion.

A training sequence consists of Brenner/Adam Sandler explaining the rules and tactics of Asteroids and Donkey Kong: “I recommend staying in the middle … Just because you have a hammer, doesn’t mean grab it … I want you to focus on the ships. Every 10,000 points, you get another triangle ship. That’s a good thing.”

Jane Krakowski shows up as the first lady and is given nothing to do.

The “Where’s the beef?” lady, not shown on screen, announces that the aliens will attack London.

There, the aliens arrive as Centipede. Brenner again must go through the rules and tactics of a game: “Shoot each centipede, but from the head down. Do not kill him in the middle, or he will split into two. … You shoot the mushroom things … Every time he hits the mushroom he’s going to change direction.”

Brenner and Ludlow seize a couple light guns from the faltering Seals and defeat the invaders themselves. President Chewie calls the commander on the ground and orders, “Let the nerds take over.”

During the attack, Brenner saves a child from near death and then tells him, “I’m just a loser who’s good at old video games.”

The Seals, the president of the United States, and the arcaders celebrate at a London pub. Kevin James/President Chewie skips into the pub and roars, “Where’s my gamers at?”


Ricardo Montalbán and Hervé Villechaize of Fantasy Island congratulate humanity but announce that everyone gets three lives in this game, and that the aliens currently lead 2 to 1. They send the dog from Duck Hunt to earth as a trophy.

President Chewie, Brenner, and Ludlow recruit the mulletted Fireblaster/Eddie Plant/Peter Dinklage, who is in prison for hacking. He says things like “totally tubular” and disputes Brenner’s bona fides, saying, “He’s just not really a gamer.”

The three men travel to Manhattan to fight Pac-Man. Violet has designed ghost-like cars with licence plates that say “Blinky,” etc. The men wear Ghostbusters-ish jumpsuits that say “ARCADER” on them and have “1UP” arm patches and Qbert pyramids above the chest. Toru Iwatani, the actual creator of Pac-Man, joins them and has his hand bit off. The Pac-Man who shows up is not the two-dimensional Pac-Man from Pac-Man but is closer to a legless and armless representation of the caricature on the Pac-Man arcade cabinet, or perhaps a naked, limbless version of the Pac-Man in 1984’s Pac-Land.

Brenner/Blinky defeats Pac-Man. Earth is given Qbert as a trophy, and then Brenner watches Violet’s son, Matty, play The Last of Us and complains that there are no easy patterns to follow to beat it. “You’ve got to pretend you are the guy,” Matty says.

Later, Qbert says “bullcrap” and an expletive-symbol world balloon appears above his head. Qbert tells Violet, Brenner, and Matty that his world was peaceful until the aliens felt threatened by the arcade footage on the space probe and began preparing for war.


Violet goes on a date with Brenner to some kind of navy ball. She tells him he should invent technology, not just play it. “I had my shot, as a kid, in the arcades,” Brenner says.

Fireblaster is revealed as a cheater, inexplicably using cheat codes in 1970s arcade games to become world champion.

Footage of 1980s Daryl Hall and John Oates announces the final alien attack, an abandonment of protocol as all the alien arcade warriors — Space Invaders, Paperboy, Galaga, Joust, Frogger, Tetris, Dig Dug, Mario, Burger Time — arrive at once. There are also pixel ninjas. And Violet shoots a Smurf, even though there is no arcade game with Smurfs in it.

Lucky Lisa arrives, Ludlow professes his love, and they agree to marry.

Max Headroom appears in the clouds and says, “The boss wants to meet you in person.”

Inside the spaceship, the aliens have constructed a three-dimensional physical obstacle course that looks like the first Donkey Kong level. A pixelated Kong hurls barrels that Brenner, Violet, et. al., must leap over. Qbert urinates on the ground in fear. Brenner is not invincible when he grabs the hammer to destroy barrels, and he can still climb ladders while holding the hammer, too. (I realise I sound like Comic Book Guy, but c’mon.) Brenner hurls the hammer into Donkey Kong’s chest and he explodes into pixels, because that’s totally how you defeat Donkey Kong.

“World hero?” Violet says to Brenner on the White House lawn. “I guess you’re not a nerd anymore.”

“You don’t want me to stop being a nerd ever,” Brenner replies. “Because like I said, nerds are the greatest kissers.”


Chris Suellentrop is the critic at large for Kotaku and a host of the podcast Shall We Play a Game? Contact him by writing [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @suellentrop.


  • I am now going to spoil it, all of it, so that you don’t go see it.

    Don’t read the review if you want to see the film, and it actually is fun, worth seeing on a half-price tuesday or if you have a local cinema with $10 tickets.

    I’ve never seen such a campaign from a website before to convince people not to see a film, which in the grand scheme of things is okay and visually cool.

    • @poita Agreed.

      From the article:

      As you have likely heard, Pixels is a bad movie, almost pleasingly stupid.

      Not really. I’ve heard it from those that judged the movie by the trailer and I don’t consider 11 minute long YouTube rants a “review”.

      • I was told it’s the worst movie someone’s ever seen. Seems there’s some mixed opinions when I look around the net. I imagine mindset going in to it changes weather or not you enjoy it too.

      • Yeah, I judged the trailer… the one laugh was the fake cameo, and the trailer gave away that and the punchline. That’s usually a sign the movie doesn’t have many working jokes, if they have to show all of them.

    • There’s a habit lately of people judging things before they’ve seen them in a severely vitriolic way even exceeding years past.

      Ant-Man is currently enjoying a revisionist history with people declaring they knew it would be great! *BULLSHIT*. So many people, so damn many people condemned that movie, said it would suck etc, said it was going to flop. Declared it DOA. I sat back, I’ve reviewed my own FB feed prior to this and simply said ‘I’ll wait and see.’ Glad I did.

      Fantastic Four is next in line. There’s INFINITE amount of negative *rumours* about the F4 reboot but no actual facts supporting anything anyones saying. People will say ‘Oh but those rumours add up!’ No. No they don’t. Ever. I can spread 500 fake rumours, different ones, about someone, it doesn’t make it true, it’s just many, many fake rumours. Fantastic 4 will likely be decent to be honest and it too will experience said revisionist history.

      Pixels I have no idea of. I’m taking my kid to see it, but the campaign seems to center more around the fact it’s a Sandler movie. A person I know recently said ‘Oh its a Sandler movie? Fuck that.’ Well true he’s made some shit, but he’s also made some great films. Just take each one as it comes. Anyhow, sorry for the rant, but I do agree with you. I’m taking my 11 year old this week, hopefully we both get a kick out of it.

      • Yeah, I have just been surprised by headlines that say “Don’t see this movie”, many of them from people who haven’t seen the film.

        I guess I am just over people bagging stuff they haven’t even seen, and when ‘news’ sites do it, I get really annoyed. If you saw it and hated it, well, you can review it.
        If you haven’t seen it and are telling people not to watch the movie, then you are just shitting on the hard work of a *lot* of people, and potentially sinking their work.

        The movie was okay, kids will love it, the visuals were fun.

        Yeah, I’m going to see Fantastic Four as well, the trailer looks pretty cool. And on trailers, that Jurassic World trailer was beyond awful, but the movie was fantastic!

        • Jurassic Worlds another example. Mark I love ya to death mate, but you did the same thing to JW, which turned out to be an immensely fun movie.

          • like i said in one my earlier posts this year when it came to movies, the only movie that i am really dreading is episode 7 just because of the massive amount of hype people have for it, i have a feeling that it could be another phantom menace where when it came to Jurassic World most people had extremely low expections and were waiting for it to fail

        • Yeah, Jurassic World was awesome. Not sure about Pixels though, I’m not making my decision on Pixels though because Kotaku told me not to go I just don’t think I’ll like it based on many sources. As for Fantastic Four it looks like it’s gonna be great, I’m a trailer person when it comes to movies and I mainly judge whether or not to go based on my own experience with genre, the trailers, and the reviews.

      • So true. I was on twitter following hashtags when news broke of edgar wright leaving ant-man and my god there was so many negative comments about it back then. It was COMPLETELY condemned.

        I like good movies.
        I also like shit movies.
        I make up my own mind and completely disregard reviews. It’s just one person’s opinion afterall.

    • I see what you did there. I won’t be seeing the movie, because whilst I’m all for the idea of revisiting nostalgic arcade experiences, the reality of how Hollywood has conscripted these retro icons into a chest-beating Independence Day flick just makes me sad… and angry.

  • I am starting to think that this is all a big marketing stunt. Kotaku, Engadget and The Verge are all saying how bad this movie is. What’s the deal? Bet you it will be a big success.

    • Just because something is a ‘big success’ (meaning it earnt money) does not mean it’s good. To back up my claim with evidence I suggest you watch any Adam sandler film after Happy Gilmore.

      • Wedding Singer was extremely good. Easily one of his best.
        Punchdrunk Love showcases his best dramatic performance so far.
        Big Daddy was schmalty but ok.
        Little Nicky was endlessly quotable. Not great but not bad at all.
        Funny People, was damn good, not his best movie but one of his best performances. Most people expected a slapstick comedy, not a deconstruction of Sandlers life.
        Bulletproof with Damon Wayans was flat out great!
        Airheads was loads of fun.
        Reign over me was heavily flawed but had its heart in the right place, plus it had Don Cheadle.

        He’s a really, REALLY likeable actor in the right role, but in the wrong movie and wrong role… he’s indefensibly annoying.

        Something being good does not mean it’s destined to be a big success either. A lot of Sandlers better movies performed poorly. It was after ‘Funny people’, that he essentially stopped ‘giving a shit’ and pumped out these generic pieces of shit. The guy put himself out there with a truly genuine performance and the world shat on him because it wasn’t a standard ‘Happy Madison’ movie. Go figure that one out.

        It’s like Cabin in the Woods put forward, we complain we want something different, we hunger for it, yet when we’re given it we keep wanting the same crap over and over and over again…

        • I up voted just because you defended Little Nicky.. i fucking loved that movie and it wasnt because of the booobies

        • Little Nicky is one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life, the wedding singer was aweful, as was big daddy.

          I will give you funny people though, I forgot about it but remembered liking it once you brought it up.

          • Not everyone has to like the same movies, the main point is, his entire library isn’t awful, but there’s pretty much a reason his movies have *entirely* gone to shit now. Well, there’s an excuse anyhow lol. I mean, technically he could aspire to do better like John Travolta did (seen as a joke consistently, he upped his career by seeking out better and better roles until he got Pulp Fiction). But instead, he’s chosen the ‘fuck you I’ll cash in on this rubbish and laugh all the way to the bank’ route. Quite genius in an almost sinister way…

          • I still laugh at Happy Gilmore. Love that movie 🙂

            Bulletproof I used to really like but saw it again recently and wasn’t as funny as I remembered it being!

            I also liked Mr Deeds and thought he did a great Dracula voice in Hotel Transylvania 🙂

            I’ll be taking my youngest son to see Pixels. It looks like a fun movie 🙂

      • IMO he hasn’t made terrible movies after the happy gilmore era. But he is used as the studios know he is a cash cow. As all blogs and reviewers have announced how bad this movie is people will now be more likely to flock to see it.

    • Maybe the gloves are off and the outlets that are merciless are either

      A: venting all that pent up frustration about saying nice things about crap that they received sponsorship from

      B: flexing their ‘power’ to show Hollywood whose boss

      Personally I never let critics dictate what I see, and quite enjoy a good bad movie sometimes. However, I won’t ne seeing it in a cinema

    If you want video game humor… see futurama or the southpark gaming episodes.
    If you want nostalgia… go play the classic games themselves, play donkey kong and pacman.

    Its just a movie of lame jokes at the expense of gamers and classic icons, with Adam Sandler just making it even wierder by being there and using his stale formula to this. Seriously Peter Dinklage and Nintendo… what where they thinking signing up for this tripe.

    • Honestly, the film would have had to have been on the level of Airplane (aka flying high) to be worth paying to see over simply watching the futurma short from Anthology of interest II, simply because jokes are incredibly easy to ruin by making them go on too long.

    • The whole ‘release the nerds!’ schtick is exactly the reason why Hollywood should never touch video games as subject matter.

      • I am reminded of the Law & Order gaming episode recently. Both sides of Internet debate waited to see if their side was to be vindicated… Only to see L&O ‘hollywood’ it in a way that turned off everybody. Kind of amusing in that way.

    • Metacritic also says Dredd only deserves 59%, The Raid 2 71% and The Raid 73%. All 3 deserve MUCH higher scores. Pfffft. I’m not defending Pixels here, it probably is crap who knows, but Metacritics a terrible site to go by.

      • I disagree. I think it is very useful when you are blindly considering what to spend your money on. Sometimes I’m browsing ozgameshop and turn up a title that I know absolutely nothing about. A quick metacritic check can at least give me a breadth of opinion on it. If it is a genre I like then I will tolerate a lower metacritic score as a threshold to pulling the purchase trigger, for example.

          • Agreed, I can’t stand that people rely on metacritic scores as some *magical* number to derive somethings worth from.

            If The Thing by John Carpenter had been released today, it would have an absolutely shocking meta critic score due to being widely panned on release.

      • I think Metacritic can be useful when it highlights that a movie/game has received almost entirely positive reviews, or conversely, almost entirely negative reviews. As this one has done.

        I mean sure, everyone has that one film or game that the rest of the world hated that they enjoyed, but as an overall measure of quality (or lack of), a score of 27 is generally a pretty good indicator of something being rubbish.

        • Using it as a guideline to ascertain a trend is absolutely a valid thing to do, but using it as a way to get a definitive score which a lot of people do, that’s just a bad idea due to its imbalanced nature.

  • I’d still like to see the version of Pixels suggested last time this came up where the main cast are replaced by are the real Toru Iwatani, Shigeru Miyamoto and a team of other suitably old school game developers.
    Who wouldn’t want to see an action movie filled with aging Japanese business men?

  • I’ve heard from many sources that’s it’s one of the worst movies ever. It rips off (poorly) a Futurama episode.
    And anyway, when was the last watchable Adam Sandler movie? 1997?

    • He’s watchable if he had nothing to do with the script, and has a competent director instead of some idiot friend he’s thrown a contract to.

      But he’s realised he can slam together some shitty vanity project, hire his buddies, and scrape up product placement to pay for it. If he can set it somewhere like Hawaii, even better: it’s a paid holiday. He’ll still make bank off it, so he doesn’t need to try.

      • Christ, did you sit through “Blended” too? My ex made me endure that shit. What a horrid, horrid time.

        Thank god we pirated it… I MEAN THANK GOD WE DIDNT!

        • Blended, no… but my former house-mates used to rent his stuff on “2 for 1” night at Video Ezy.

          Since we’re on the topic of illegal things that shouldn’t be done, I was absolutely, positively not usually baked out of my mind to sit through it. I deny that categorically.

  • I find it interesting how these “once were very funny” actors really loose the comical plot as they get older, often releasing movies that are poor attempts at humor. Dumb and Dumberer is another good example, its so dumb it stops being funny.

    Waiting for a final debacle from Mike Myers, I think Rob Schneider did it long ago thought he is still attempting comedy with a upcoming movie OMG, I’m a Robot.

    • Mike Myers knows its too late to do any more Wayne World, and that the Austin Powers character was run into the ground years ago. Don’t think we will see him again.
      Rob Schneider on the other hand I have heard is mates again with Sandler, so I guess he will be allowed on the next paid holiday.


  • Freddie wong already did this and it was short and sweet and perfect! They just ripped off his idea and made it movie length. I’ll see it but maybe not pay hoyts 25 bucks for it

  • Movie was not that bad however as far as history notes Madonna was not known in 1982 her first hit holiday broke out in spring of 1984 and Max Headrom was not known till 85 with coke commericals

  • I don’t want to sound that THAT OBSESSED GAMER DUDE, but the kid is not playing the regular The Last of Us. If you look at the controller, you’ll see that it’s a PS4 controller. The Last of Us was released for the PS3.

    So, just an error in a movie, right?


    The Last of Us, whilst being for PS3, did see a remastered version called (ironically enough) The Last of Us REMASTERED!!!!!! Genius. And the remastered version was released for the PS4.

    So, Case Closed, right?


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