This is the story of four boys who have barely managed to mature into adults from their 1980s selves, when their primary claim to fame was being experts at arcade games. They were the champions of Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and Centipede, among others. This was also the time when the space agency, Nasa, sent a capsule containing information about Earth’s life and culture into space. This capsule is found by an alien species that believes the arcade games are some sort of a threat to their civilization and a call to war. So they morph into these very arcade games and attack Earth.

Will Cooper (Kevin James) is now the US president and when aliens attack an American army base, he calls on his childhood besties, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), for help. They realize they are outnumbered and need the highly skilled gamer, and Sam’s arch-enemy, Eddie “The Fire Blaster" Plant (Peter Dinklage). Sam, Eddie, Ludlow and a completely unconvincing Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) unite to form the Arcaders.

Their challenge is to outplay the aliens with three lives at stake (25 cents earned you three games/lives on a video-game console, so the aliens too give Earth three chances). After the attack on the US military base, the aliens pixelate the Taj Mahal to smithereens. The Americans, as in all “disaster" movies, must save the planet, and it is down to the underachieving Arcaders to revisit their skills to do so.

If it sounds cheesy, it almost is, but Pixels (the terrible title notwithstanding) is a nostalgia trip for those who recall the 1980s with fondness—a time of Atari and Hall & Oates, Madonna and Fantasy Island. The soundtrack also includes hits from that decade, such as True by Spandau Ballet, Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears for Fears and She’s Gone by Hall & Oates.

It takes a little getting used to seeing the cute and hungry Pac-Man attacking Washington, DC and accepting the lazy special effects and plot points. The film catalogues the worst set of performances seen in a while, particularly Dinklage’s accent and Gad’s pubescent antics.

One expected more from a director with the credentials of Chris Columbus (Stepmom, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone).

Pixels released in theatres on Friday.

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