Even before Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison Productions took refuge on Netflix and almost instantly cemented a status as the biggest draw on the world’s most popular streaming service, he already had a reputation that was as close to bulletproof as it gets in Hollywood.
The vast majority of his movies were consistently panned by critics, but they brought in billions of box office dollars and won him an army of fans. What made Sandler’s success all the more impressive is that he climbed to the top of the A-list by almost exclusively developing and producing his own content, and hardly ever appeared in what most of us would define as a studio blockbuster.
In fact, Christopher Columbus’ 2015 effort Pixels is the only film in The Sandman’s back catalogue that fits the blockbuster template to a tee. It’s got a big star in the lead, plenty of effects-driven spectacle, a high concept premise and a $130 million budget. However, the worst thing that happened to the project was putting it through the Happy Madison wringer.
Essentially Ghostbusters for the video game generation, the movie was based on the 2010 short of the same name by Patrick Jean, where classic 8-bit characters launch an invasion on New York City. Columbus seemed like a solid fit for the material, too, having plenty of history in helming both family films and epic fantasy, at least before Sandler got involved.
The leading man tasked regular collaborator Tim Herlihy to write the script, where they came up with the hilarious idea of casting Kevin James as the President of the United States. Pixels may have earned almost $245 million at the box office, but a Rotten Tomatoes score of 17% made it pretty clear that the unique concept had been bungled spectacularly in favor of the standard Adam Sandler formula. That being said, it shouldn’t be a surprise to discover that it’s nonetheless managed to crack the Netflix Top 10 most-watched list today, sitting at #9 on the global chart.