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16 BITVILLE — Marketing for this weekend's "Pixels" may have parents wondering about its intended audience.
On the one hand, trailers for the latest Adam Sandler flick appear to be selling a family friendly celebration of the classic '80s arcade. But on the other hand, the movie is sporting a PG-13 rating and also stars Sandler, who let's face it, is hardly known for his Sesame-Street-approved sense of humor.
So let's do our best to answer the question, is "Pixels" a safe movie for kids?
Per our usual disclaimer, these parental takes are not full reviews of the film. John Clyde has done a pretty great job summing up the reasons you'll want to pass on "Pixels" this weekend — and possibly forever — but, if a giant 8-bit Pac-Man destroying a city is simply something you have to see, we totally understand. We're just here to give you an idea if the little ones in your life should see it with you.
The Adam Sandler family film
"Pixels" is produced by Sandler's Happy Maddison Productions, whose take on "family friendly" might differ from the average card-carrying parent's interpretation. That said, "Pixels" probably is the safest movie the studio has released since its 2008 "Bedtime Stories." Sure, you could argue "Zookeeper" was aimed at families, but that movie was so painfully terrible I'm unwilling to think about it long enough to offer a comparison.
Regardless, expect the usual body humor, mild language and a few unnecessary though relatively tame sexually charged gags. This is a movie aiming to fit in with the junior high or middle school crowds, and just barely earns its PG-13 rating as a result.
Is it scary?
There are a few moments throughout the film where people are turned into tiny cubes while being transported to an unseen alien craft. The moments are accompanied with dramatic, something-bad-is-happening music which younger kids may find disturbing.
In general however, the action sequences in "Pixels" are hyper-stylized and cartoony. Nothing about the story strives for dramatic urgency, so there are no weighty consequences to consider. Characters who do end up on the receiving end of an alien attack are simply captured, and enemies who meet their demise burst into pixelated cubes. Kids will be more likely to cover their eyes from sensory overload than actual terror.
So what else?
Let me just frankly throw the worst bits at you in the least spoiler-laced way I know how.
There's a scene where Ludlow (Josh Gad) does an unnecessarily sexy dance, a few scenes with alcohol — one of which includes a character who's no longer sober — a few side-characters who don't value modesty and one recurring joke about Eddie's (Peter Dinklage) list of celebrities he's more than casually attracted to.
It wouldn't be difficult to make a list of classic PG movies more offensive than "Pixels," but there are maybe five collective minutes that needed to be chopped before classifying this as a film for all ages.
"Pixels" isn't going to send anyone storming out of the theater, but there are a few moments to consider before bringing the wee ones. If I were being especially conservative, I might say this is for ages 10 and up, but there are definitely 8- and 9-year-olds mature enough for this love letter to the retro video game.
To restate what Clyde has already mentioned, content isn't the reason not to see this movie. Look for the superior two-minute short film on vimeo and save yourself some time and money.
Travis Poppleton has been covering movie news, film reviews and live events for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010 and co-hosts the FlixJunkies podcast. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.