There was a time when Adam Sandler’s name above the marquee meant that box-office success was a virtual guarantee. In the early and mid-2000s, Sandler starred in hit after hit, mostly by staying in his gross-out comedy lane, but occasionally venturing out into rom-com and even straight-up drama territory. Around the time of 2009’s Jack and Jill, many of Sandler’s star vehicles were dead on arrival at the box office.
Judging by the early weekend numbers, Pixels could be the latest example of that trend. Though it’s slated for a not-insubstantial $25 million opening weekend, Sony likely hoped the $88 million sci-fi comedy would attract a mixture of Sandler-heads and video game addicts. The poisonous reviews probably haven’t helped in that regard.
Maybe the absence of a particular beloved video game character is keeping some Sandler skeptics away from the theater this weekend. The movie’s director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, the first two Harry Potter movies) told Screencrush yesterday that the original cut of the movie featured a post-credits sequence in which Mario stands atop the Washington Monument, the last remaining video game character/alien preparing to wreak havoc on Earth. The scene didn’t test well, so the director cut it.
“There was a moment where we even did a pre-vis of it and we thought it was interesting, but we wanted to potentially use him somewhere else."
The movie also lacks cameos from the likenesses of two ‘80s superstars who Columbus wanted to include but couldn’t secure the rights in time. Michael Jackson and Mr. T were both slated for cameo appearances in the original script, Columbus said. Instead, the movie’s highest-profile cameos are from the likenesses of Hall & Oates (who lent their voices to the film as well) and Madonna.
It’s unlikely that the inclusion of these minor details would have made audiences more interested in seeing Pixels, but it is interesting that Columbus, perhaps as an aspect of his homage to the blockbusters of the '80s, decided not to include a post-credits sequence that sets up a sequel, given that a Pixels 2 seems unlikely. Perhaps audiences who liked the movie would have left the theater feeling cheated out of a sequel, and audiences who didn’t like the movie wouldn’t have appreciated a brazen tease for the continuation of the story. In a time when post-credits sequences have become de rigeur, it’s nice that some people are trying to move away from them as a lazy device to set up a sequel and leave the audience on a note of superficial adrenaline.
Even without Michael Jackson and Mr. T, Pixels probably won't be a complete box office flop. And even though critics haven’t been shy with their pans of the film, Columbus seems happy to have made the cuts that he did. Mario doesn’t appear onscreen for more than a second in the final product, but the film has plenty of other video game characters for fans of that world to enjoy.
Pixels is now playing in U.S. theaters.