Adam Sandler and Peter Dinklage battle Pac-Man in Toronto: a breakdown of the Pixels trailer

Adam Sandler and Peter Dinklage battle Pac-Man in Toronto: a breakdown of the Pixels trailer

Last summer, Toronto was abuzz with news that the Waterboy himself, Adam Sandler, was shooting a film in and around our beautiful, characterless, can-pass-as-basically-anywhere downtown core. Even more exciting, for fans of a certain bosomy high-fantasy HBO series, was the presence of Sandler’s costar, Peter Dinklage.

Now, we all can witness the fruits of their labour. (Or, I guess, the promotional teaser for the fruits of their labour.) Which is to say, the trailer for the new Sandler/Dinklage joint, the shot-in-Toronto Pixels, was released on Tuesday. (It’s embedded above.) Here’s our second-by-second breakdown:

0:08: This is already the most boring kind of movie trailer. You know: the ones where they set it up like it’s going to be a serious drama only to reveal that it’s a stupid comedy? One of those. The premise is that, in 1982, mankind sent a time capsule into space in hopes of connecting with alien life. It included “examples of our life and culture.”

0:24—0:29: Examples of our shared cultural heritage circa 1982, apparently: a video of Ronald Reagan’s 1981 presidential Christmas speech, a Rubik’s cube, and footage of both Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.

0:30: Is this really how NASA would try to connect with alien life? Send a bunch of garbage into space, without any context, and hope they just innately make sense of it? You’d have to imagine there’s a potential for some kind of humungous, potentially world-shattering miscommunication, no?

0:48: Aaaaand inevitably, the “record scratch” moment of the trailer—the part when you realize it’s actually not a semi-serious movie about intergalactic communication, but rather a very silly movie about “an alien life force [that] has sent real-life video games to attack us.” Yes, that’s right, “real-life video games.”

0:59: Yes, there he is. Pac-Man eating a fire truck, accompanied by that trademark, digital Pac-Man munching sound.


1:03: CUT TO… the re-ack (that’s industry slang for “reaction”). Sitting behind the wheel of a car, it’s Adam Sandler, his face afflicted by the studied just-got-hit-by-a-bag-of-doorknobs look that has made him a millionaire many, many, many, many times over. He wonders aloud: “Pac-Man’s a bad guy?” A fair question. Granted, Pac-Man’s backstory was never really padded out in the original arcade game. But think about it: a faceless wheel of gluttony making obnoxious wonka-wonka chomping noises, occasionally taking a break from eating other peoples’ fruit to pursue and devour the spirits of the restless dead? Yes, Pac-Man’s a bad guy.

1:08: And speaking of bad guys! It’s Kevin James. They should send that guy into space, if anything.

1:11: And a digitized, pixelated Donkey Kong. They could have saved money by putting Kevin James in a filthy ape suit.

1:22: Oh and there’s the space invaders from Space Invaders, I think. They’re all here! I watch a trailer like this, and it makes me feel really good, because I see all these things that I know, and that I remember, and it’s like, “Hey, they made this movie just for me.” Basically the premise is a bunch of video game nerds assembling to battle these “real-life video games.” So it’s The Last Starfighter meets Wreck-It Ralph meets Video and Arcade Top 10.


1:25: Hey Toronto: I see you. It’s a TD Bank! Just like the one I use! It looks to be the one at York and Adelaide.

1:28: Apparently a plot element involves dressing up a bunch of Mini Coopers as “ghosts” in order to destroy Pac-Man. Sure. Why not, right? I mean it’s your movie. I didn’t make it. Not even a bit.

1:31: There’s our first glimpse of co-star Peter Dinklage, whose name I cannot even say in my mind without thinking of this.

1:40: Adam Sandler tells his family that they’re all going to die. Sobering news! I wouldn’t mind if Adam Sandler delivered news of my imminent death at the hands of real-life video games. But I’d prefer he did in either the Opera Man voice (“Vide-oh game-oh! It’s a shame-oh! Real life-ah Nintend-oh! Annihilate-oh!”) or, for the sake of brevity, the Cajun Man voice (“Errrrraaaadication”).

1:50: The title forms, out of pixels. Because the movie is called: Pixels.


2:05: Oh no! I actually laughed! They try to stop the insatiable Pac-Man fiend by getting the game’s inventor, Toru Iwatani (played by Denis Akiyama) to try and reason with the yellow beast. “Hello my sweet little boy,” he coos. “Look how big you’ve grown.” Maybe I’m just a sucker for jokes about sons and dads.

2:11: Our first full glimpse of Dinklage’s formidable mullet/facial hair combination. He looks like a guy who runs a concession at a hockey rink and moonlights playing guitar in an Anvil cover band.

2:18: I didn’t realize this film was directed by Chris Columbus, helmer of such legitimately entertaining fluff as Adventures in Babysitting, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone (and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) and the first two Harry Potter movies. These days, when Adam Sandler anchors a movie, you expect the Sandman’s BFF Dennis Dugan to direct it. Or, barring that, maybe a finely tuned computer algorithm designed to churn out passably profitable Adam Sandler movies once a fiscal year. Is it weird that I think Columbus’ involvement lends Pixels something like the patina of quality? Is it weirder that I’m using the words “patina of quality” to describe the work of a man who produced Monkeybone and Christmas with the Kranks?