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Short takes

Not recommended under 12; parental guidance for 12 and 13-year-olds due to violence, crude humour and coarse language.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Pixels
  • a review of Pixels completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 3 September 2015.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to violence, crude humour and coarse language
Children aged 12 and 13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, crude humour and coarse language
Children 14 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Pixels
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, violence, coarse language and sexual references
Length: 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

In 1982, 13 year-old Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito), brilliant at playing PacMan, heads to the National Arcade Game Championships with his best friend William Cooper (Jared Riley) to take on the best. There they meet the weird but brilliant Ludlow, the Wonder Kid (Jacob Shinder).  However, it is Sam who gets through to the last round and has to play Eddie the Fire Blaster (Andrew Bambridge). Sam loses to Eddie who doesn’t let him forget. The Championships are filmed and sent into space in a time capsule by NASA in an attempt to extend friendship and show American culture to extra-terrestrial life.

The scene skips to the present day where Sam (Adam Sandler) is a TV/software technician, Cooper (Kevin James) is the President of the USA 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 he is summoned to the White House by Cooper.

Sam is surprised to find Violet there also, but then discovers she is a Lieutenant Colonel in the army. An American army base in Guam has been attacked by aliens and many have been killed. It appears that the message sent out into space thirty years ago was misinterpreted as a challenge to war. The Aliens are attacking Earth using Arcade Game Technology and Earth is given three lives. It’s up to Sam, Ludlow and Eddie (Peter Dinklage), whom they have to get out of jail, to save the world.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Intergalactic war; computer games

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a lot of violence in this movie including

  • War scenes with loud, explosive violence
  • Computer game characters, such as PacMan, Centipedes and Donkey Kong are shot at and destroyed.
  • People and objects are ‘pixellated’ when their body parts turn to crystal-like cubes.
  • Buildings explode and collapse like Tetris buildings.
  • Guam army base is attacked by a UFO with 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 all sorts of 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 PacMan comes down the street eating everything in sight and pixellating everything.
  • The inventor of PacMan tries to reason with it but it attacks him instead.
  • The PacMan challenge involves chasing PacMan 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 PacMan.
  • Violet’s son Matty (Matt Lintz) gets pixellated and taken up into a spaceship.
  • The spaceship drops all kind of computer game characters over the world, and they destroy the planet, with people running and screaming everywhere.
  • Some objects attack a school bus with screaming children inside.
  • Violet and the gamers use huge laser guns to attack the computer characters. Violet kills Smurf.
  • ‘Lady Lisa’ with whom Ludlow is in love, 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.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The giant computer characters - centipedes, PacMan and the monkey - would scare children in this age group.
  • People and buildings being ‘pixellated’ could be disturbing for children in this age group.
  • The UFO is a huge spaceship that appears through the clouds in the sky.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

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

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • The actual 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 computer game, which is quite violent with men fighting each other seriously.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group could also be scared by some of the above content

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Computer game characters such as PacMan, Donkey Kong, and Centipede
  • Star Wars merchandise
  • Crystal Head Vodka

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Matty’s Dad is having an affair with a 19 year old
  • Ludlow calls the soldiers ‘Maginas’ and ‘nipple twisters’.
  • Ludlow smacks the men on their bottoms with sexual innuendo.
  • Eddie requests a ‘threesome’ between himself, Serena Williams and Martha Stewart as a condition of him helping the government.
  • Ludlow states that he’s going to ‘die a virgin’ when his car is destroyed.
  • Eddie says he’s been in prison for 8 years and hasn’t had a woman in all that time so ‘she will be in for a big surprise’.
  • Serena Williams (as herself) sends a text message to Eddie saying ‘meet me in the hero’s bedroom’ and we see her with Martha Stewart waving to Eddie.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Sam tries to make out with Violet but she rejects him at first. They kiss later on.

Use of substances

There is quite a lot of drinking by main characters throughout the movie. Violet drinks in her closet, Sam drinks wine out of a bottle and Cooper drinks beer from a jug.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “damn”; “I suck”; “Oh God”; “sons of bitch’s”; “bitch”; “screwed up”; “bugger off”; “shit”; “arse”
  • name calling such as “loser”; “slut”; “girl maggots”; “bad asses”; “morons”; “geek”; “idiot’

In a nutshell

Pixels is a comic science fiction movie mostly aimed at teens, but with appeal to adult fans of 1980s games. It features a mixture of animation and actual actors. There is frequent violence which is likely to have a stronger impact on children in the 3D version. Many parents of younger children are also likely to be concerned about the film’s crude humour and coarse language. It is therefore not recommended for children under 12, with parental guidance recommended for the 12 and 13-year-olds.

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

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • bravery
  • putting others first
  • teamwork

Parents may also wish to discuss:

  • Violet as a strong female role model.
  • Sam and Cooper stole money to play the arcade games with no repercussions. Was that a fair thing to do to the girl who was selling the lemonade?
  • Eddie admits to cheating 30 years earlier to win the championships with no consequences. Should he have lost his title?