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How’s this for a high concept: aliens, having somehow encountered the video games of Earth circa 1983 and decided they’re a hostile act, have attacked our planet using those same video game icons against us. It’s the kind of dumb movie idea that pretty much sells itself. Trouble is, it’s also an Adam Sandler vehicle, and big special-effects heavy blockbusters are not his natural environment.
This film does at least put in some effort explaining how he fits in – he’s a burn-out whose heyday was as a gamer in the ’80s, which actually does sound like a character Sandler could get some mileage out of. But the plot here is basically Armageddon (or any one of countless other “men on a mission” movies), which means it’s a lot more about putting the team together and then fighting back than it is about Sandler being a layabout jerk.
It’s not that this is devoid of comedy: for one thing, Sandler’s character’s childhood best friend has grown up to be Kevin James (not surprising) who is also the President of the United States (surprising), so when the aliens attack he knows to call up his gamer buddy for the fight-back.
Josh Gad (sort of funny) and Peter Dinklage (very funny) are the main sidekicks here, while Michelle Monaghan plays the weapons expert who becomes Sandler’s love interest – a thankless role, mostly because both the film and Sandler seem only marginally interested in her. Director Christopher Columbus isn’t exactly a dab hand at comedy these days but he does do a solid job of integrating the pixelated game character aliens into the real world, so while the comedy rarely raises a chuckle this is at least interesting to look at. It’s also interesting to think about why anyone would make what is basically a kids movie built around ’80s nostalgia – by definition, if you remember the ’80s, you’re no longer a kid – but it makes about as much sense as anything else Sandler has done this decade.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris