Story

It’s 1982, and 13-year-old Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito) is brilliant at playing Pac-Man. He goes to the National Arcade Game Championships with his best friend William Cooper (Jared Riley), and they meet the weird but brilliant Ludlow the Wonder Kid (Jacob Shinder). Sam gets through to the last round, where he plays Eddie the Fire Blaster (Andrew Bambridge) and loses. The Championships are filmed and sent into space in a NASA time capsule to extend friendship and show American culture to extraterrestrial life.

The movie shifts to the present day where Sam (Adam Sandler) is a TV software technician, Cooper (Kevin James) is US President, and Ludlow (Josh Gad) is still an oddball. Sam is installing a new TV at the home of Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), who is in the process of a divorce, when Cooper summons him to the White House.

Sam is surprised to find Violet there also, but then discovers that she’s a lieutenant colonel in the army. Aliens have attacked an American army base in Guam, and many people have been killed. It appears that the message sent out into space 30 years previously has been misinterpreted as a challenge to war, and the aliens are attacking Earth using arcade game technology. Sam and Ludlow must get Eddie (Peter Dinklage) out of gaol, so the three of them can save the world.

Themes

Intergalactic war; computer games

Violence

Pixels has a lot of violence. For example:

  • There are war scenes that feature loud, explosive violence.
  • Computer game characters like Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong are shot and destroyed.
  • People and objects are ‘pixellated’ when their body parts turn to crystal-like cubes.
  • Buildings explode and collapse like Tetris buildings.
  • A UFO attacks Guam army base. There are huge explosions and fire everywhere. A soldier disintegrates after being ‘pixellated’.
  • Sam punches Ludlow in the face when he surprises him in a van. Ludlow falls out of the back of the van, and Sam threatens him with a baseball bat.
  • Ludlow yells verbal abuse at his grandmother.
  • Ludlow has a screaming fit at a group of soldiers and calls them names.
  • The General punches Ludlow in the face.
  • A giant centipede eats a soldier then escapes onto the streets of London, destroying everything in its path.
  • A giant Pac-Man comes down the street eating everything in sight and pixellating everything.
  • The inventor of Pac-Man tries to reason with it, but it attacks him instead.
  • The Pac-Man challenge involves chasing Pac-Man down several streets in mini cars. Ludlow’s car gets destroyed, Eddie’s car goes into a river, and Sam’s car flies out of a window and almost gets eaten by Pac-Man.
  • Violet’s son Matty (Matt Lintz) gets pixellated and taken up into a spaceship.
  • The spaceship drops computer game characters over the world, and they destroy the planet. There are people running and screaming everywhere.
  • Some objects attack a school bus, which has screaming children inside it.
  • Violet and the gamers use huge laser guns to attack the computer characters. Violet kills Smurf. 
  • Ludlow is in love with ‘Lady Lisa’, a computer game character. She comes alive and attacks Ludlow with swords, but then falls in love with him.
  • The final ‘game’ is Donkey Kong, in which a giant monkey throws objects at Sam, Matt and Violet. Sam has to fight his way through the maze to save the world.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Pixels has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • The giant computer characters – Centipede, Pac-Man and the monkey – will scare children in this age group.
  • The scenes where people and buildings are ‘pixellated’ could be disturbing for children in this age group. 
  • The UFO is a huge spaceship that appears through the clouds in the sky.

From 5-8
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Pixels has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • Sam and Cooper steal money from a lemonade stand to play arcade games.
  • The aliens on Earth drop strange objects from the sky, including coloured balls that drop like mushrooms and then change into giant centipedes.
  • The army has a robot that looks like a man but has a plastic brain.
  • The children in the school bus are obviously frightened by the attack.
  • After winning a round, Earth gets a trophy that looks like a cute creature made of cubes.
  • Cuba wets his pants when he’s frightened during the last game of Donkey Kong.
  • Cuba destroys himself and changes into Lady Lisa for Ludlow.
     

From 8-13
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Pixels has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • The war scenes and explosions could frighten children in this age group.
  • Matty tells Sam that his dad cheated on his mum with a 19-year-old girl.
  • Matty plays a violent computer game, which features men fighting each other.

Over 13
Younger children in this age group could also be scared by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Sexual references

Pixels has some sexual references. For example:

  • Matty’s dad is having an affair with a 19-year-old girl.
  • Ludlow uses sexualised terms to insult the soldiers.
  • Ludlow smacks the men on their bottoms in a sexually suggestive way.
  • Eddie requests a ‘threesome’ between himself, Serena Williams and Martha Stewart as a condition of him helping the government.
  • Ludlow says that he’s going to ‘die a virgin’ when his car is destroyed.
  • Eddie says he’s been in prison for eight years and hasn’t been with a woman in all that time, so ‘she’ll be in for a big surprise’.
  • Serena Williams (as herself) sends a text message to Eddie. The message says, ‘Meet me in the hero’s bedroom’. The scene shows her and Martha Stewart waving to Eddie.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Pixels shows quite a lot of drinking. For example, Violet drinks in her closet, Sam drinks wine out of a bottle, and Cooper drinks beer from a jug.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in Pixels, including when Sam tries to make out with Violet. She rejects him at first, but they kiss later on.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in Pixels:

  • computer game characters like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Centipede 
  • Star Wars merchandise
  • Crystal Head Vodka.

Coarse language

Pixels has some coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Pixels is a comic science fiction movie mostly aimed at teenagers, but with some appeal for adult fans of 1980s computer games. It features a mix of animation and real actors. 

This movie has frequent violence, which is likely to have a bigger impact on children in the 3D version. If you have younger children, you might also be concerned about the movie’s crude humour and coarse language. For these reasons, we don’t recommend this movie for children under 12 years, and we do recommend parental guidance for children over 12 years.

The main message from this movie is that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they need to. 

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include being brave, working as a team, and putting others first.

You could also talk with your children about:

  • Violet being a strong female role model
  • Sam and Cooper stealing money to play arcade games – was this a fair thing to do to the girl who was selling lemonade? In real life, what would happen if you did this?
  • Eddie admitting to cheating to win the Championships 30 years previously – do you think he should have lost his title?