Reviews: ‘Pixels’ and ‘Paper Town’
Are you afraid of ghosts? How about a crunching, blocky, unstoppable Pac-Man? Yellow up!
Describing “Pixels” feels weird. It’s like falling into a netherworld where a bunch of assaulting video game predators step off the screen in an ultra aspect of interactivity. Let’s suspend disbelief for a retro satire of pop culture biting us in the ass, a generation later. This will be a cult favorite, branded as too campy, and regarded as a film targeted to kids about adults reliving their Atari childhoods by conducting themselves like immature brats and toons.
Chris (“Adventures in Babysitting,” “Gremlins,” “Harry Potter,” “Goonies”) Columbus unleashes grown up nerds upon moviegoers. They are not everywhere, but one (Adam Sandler) installs complex home entertainment systems by day and is on call to his friend, Cooper (Kevin James), an uncharismatic occupant of the White House reminiscent of New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Another, Ludlow (Josh Gad) majors in conspiracy theories and is fixated on a striking blonde video game heroine known as Lady Lisa (Ashley Benson). A third Michelle Monaghan) just got dumped for a teen by her hubby. And, her ten year old son Maddy (Matt Lintz), who’s unfazed but delighted to receive ten birthdays worth of audio visual stuff in one day.
Donkey Kong, Galaga, Pac-Man, Centipede, and Space Invaders dominated the male adults childhood. An idiot rocket a time capsule with a V.H.S. tape of the competition into the universe. Life found, the E.T’s decide to engage a drone-esque war of the worlds believe the dangerous Earthlings inhabit an 80s arcade. Thus, the nerds face challenges reminiscent to the sky parting for the coming of Marshmallow Man ( from a soon to be re-booted movie that will cast gals instead of Dan Aykroyd and pals. Must I name it?)
Accepting buffoons in charge of earth’s response to pixelating world destruction never fully occurs. Still, it’s a fall back on the excessive military industrial complex domination and a female weapons guru (Monaghan) resembles the gadget dude in James Bond more than a military officer.
Columbus wanted a flick reminiscent of an 80s adventure roller coaster. He got revenge of retro culture playing out against a weeping closet hidden nearly drunken newly single parent learning in the 21st century nerds and geeks rule. Get over it, lady. The Pac-Man chopping out Times Square works, but other invasions are feeble. Further, the interlocking and interweaving ironies that pull the useless skill arcaders to save the world are increasingly giant leaps into the absurd.
However, most adult viewers stayed glued to the screen through closing credits. Hmm, there must be something more here. People do not hang around to watch a credit crawl for a flick they did not enjoy.
This one is a mix. It putters; it swings for a home run. The ball is caught in left field by Max Headroom.
The film adaptation of Robert (“Fault in Our Stars”) Green’s “Paper Towns” delivers a fragile, gentle young adult coming of age almost a miraculous first love fairy tale gone absurdly haywire.
“Margo Lost, Found and …” might be a more descriptive title in a “fable” retold of growing up across the street from the most popular girl in the class. Q (Nat Wolf as Quentin) and Margo (Cara Delevingne ) once rode their bicycles out and about in their middle class suburban home. As she grew older, M took on an enigmatic peer presence, leaving the cautious boy wallowing in unrequited love for her.
One night in their nervously sacred pre-prom/graduation period, she climbs through his window like a kid and asks him to assist her on a series of “missions” to even the score with an unfaithful boyfriend and uncool friends. Loading up past midnight near Orlando on Reynolds Wrap , gel, and a steering wheel lock, the two right wrongs and make rights during escapades that recall Barbara Eden’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and the quintessential “American Graffiti.”
Act One ends with a dance, a kiss and an invitation. M doesn’t return to high school .
The couple’s “partner in crime” romp demonstrates their differences, she’s quirky, spontaneous and yearning for something more. He’s a thinking planner in tune for avoiding arrest and trouble… until now.
Wolf’s straight laced, heading for medical school responsible, band geek persona exhibits adolescent wavers along the path to college, especially when obsessed, strengthened and inspired by his brush with tossing “I don’t want to get in trouble” to the wind.
M has a clever intriguing aspect, she leaves hidden poetic clues pointing to mystery solved: Her location. It seems the iconic most popular gal has a habit of running away again and again. Delevingne has the come hither, wild child find myself penchant colored with her subtle cryptic thoughts that display the half innocent, no consequence ramification of walking away and starting over at the ripe young age of 17.
Joining Wolf on a self discovery, find Margo road trip are Ben (Austin Abrams), Radar (Justice Smith), Lacey (Halston Sage from Neighbors) and Angela ( Jaz Sinclair from Rizzoli & Isles). Each have a series of foibles, vulnerabilities and status quo traits. Interestingly, Lacey, M’s former best friend, establishes a foretold yet unexpected bond.
For the age group portrayed, the obvious question in what becomes a literal emotional maturation road trip is… where are their parents? Q’s vehicle fills rapidly with participants skipping school and following impulses on an ‘i know she’s there’ inspired odyssey to a fictional New York town.
You’ll seldom find an adult in a scene with the leads. This tendency magnifies acceptance of the youthful perspectives and unquestioned conduct, which motivates their youthful leaps, lusts and mellow priorities. One example without spoiling, Q and Margo connect emotionally on top of a guarded high rise courtesy of her friendship with a low budget night custodian. References to world class literature add the sincerity to all actions.
“Paper Towns” lacks the cross generation insight of a John Hughes directed odyssey but laughs and predicaments are part “Home Alone” , part “Ferris Bueller” and decidedly heavy with Agatha, Mrs. Marple and Angela Lansbury’s idyllic Cabot Cove complications. Whether the wanderlust of “M” alludes to Hughes wallflower / individualist heroine, Molly Ringwald, is anyone’s guess.
Perfect at cultivating a “myth” style reality, “Towns” errors in expecting that the inexperienced out-of-towners would escape with nothing more than a scratch and….(sorry, removed, spoiler!) Though ready to drip nostalgia, you’ll have to go to “Pixels” for that inoculation.