The delightful 2007 documentary The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters introduced audiences to Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, two men competing for the all-time high score on the 1980s arcade game Donkey Kong. The humble, likably low-key Wiebe was posited as a potential foil to arrogant, self-promoting reigning king (and hot-sauce mogul) Mitchell. Though both men continued to compete for a few years after the film, neither holds the current high score—which currently belongs to plastic surgeon Hank Chien—though it looks like Mitchell's legacy might live on, after a fashion, in the new trailer for Pixels, in which Peter Dinklage’s character is introduced as “The King of Donkey Kong” while sporting a notably Mitchell-esque look and cocky vibe.
Then again, maybe that’s giving Pixels too much credit, as subtle nerd-doc references doesn’t really look to be this movie’s bag. What does look to be this movie’s bag is lots of loud, crashing noises, sparkly CGI, and easy nostalgia-mining references. Like the previous trailer, which our dear Charles unpacked a couple months back, the new Pixels spot lays out the film’s premise—a time capsule sent into space in 1982 prompts an alien race, which interprets it as a threat, to invade earth in the guise of 1980s videogame characters, which is just a super-practical attack scheme on every level—amid lots of broad videogame references that even those who have never stepped foot into an arcade can recognize.
This trailer, however, does a little more work to lay out the details of this battle for the world and its quarters, specifically the rag-tag group (is there any other kind?) of former arcade luminaries whom Paul Blart: President Cop assembles to derez these pixelated foes: Dinklage is the aforementioned Donkey Kong king, joined by Adam Sandler’s Pac-Man world champ and Josh Gadd’s Centipede pro. (What, no Empress Of Burger Time? I volunteer as tribute!) Oh, and Q*bert is there too, because—well, Q*bert don’t need no reason. If you’d like to watch the trailer, place your quarter on the console and wait your turn before hitting play:
The trail of the tape
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenwriter: Tim Herlihy, Timothy Dowling
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan, Q*bert
Release date: July 24, 2015
The entire trailer in one line of dialogue: *Pac-Man wakka-wakka noise*
The entire trailer in one screengrab:
Okay, let’s unpack this together. On the plus side, that glowing pixelated effect is kinda pretty, and the Donkey Kong battle sequence looks fun and dynamic, at least confined to the two-second bursts we see here. Also, did I mention Q*bert? Love that lil’ guy. On the negative side, Adam Sandler is still definitely in this movie, and definitely doing a lot of yelling, with Gadd attempting to match him scream for scream. This trailer also leans hard on a lot of the same jokes as the first one, right down to the Pac-Man stinger, which either means Pixels is saving the good stuff for the film (maybe!), or that it already used up all its “best” gags in the first trailer and had to reprise them (maybe-er!). So, yeah, it seems loud and repetitive—which pretty much sums up the arcade experience, so, hey, well-played, Pixels.