Yes, the plot if familiar. The
book “Ender's Game” (as well as the subsequent movie) began with a
kid exhibiting great skill at a video game.
In that scenario, the surprised boy was asked by an
Interplanetary Alliance to help defend them from their attackers,
because the extraordinary hand-eye co-ordination he'd developed was
exactly what they needed in their own fighter consoles.
Yes, the implication was that that video game was being monitored
to see who was a superior player.
Similar idea here, with a few embellisments.
Brenner (Adam Sandler) was a kid in 1982, when the original
arcades came out, with Pac-Man and Galaga and Donkey Kong and those
video game classics. Brenner's
good buddy at the time was Cooper (Kevin James), who was glad to
accompany him to the national video gaming championships, which Brenner
lost to a swaggering little self-promoter named Eddie (Peter Dinklage).
Fast-forward to the present day, and Brenner hasn't managed to do
much with himself. He's
still hanging around video games, except now he's just an installar for
other people's video/sound systems.
He's on just such a call when he meets Violet (Michelle
Monaghan), who's installing a new system for her young son as a divorce
present? She's still upset
about the breakup, because her husband left her for a younger woman, and
Brenner does his best to comfort her, but she's too snobby to be
interested in him. After
all, she's a Colonel in the Air Force, on the National Security Council,
which has just called an emergency meeting.
It seems the aliens have invaded Guam.
In the form of icons from an old video game.
Apparently when NASA launched some video games into space as part
of a test probe, the aliens thought war was being declared, and decided
to attack us using our own game formats.
They didn't realize we weren't serious.
Apparently there's no silliness residing in these aliens, but
rest assured there is plenty in this movie.
Here's where the “Ender's Game” gambit dovetails:
suddenly the National Security Council realizes it needs
old-style video gamers to counteract the unexpected alien invasion.
Of course that violates all kind of protocols, which are
conveniently trumped by Cooper, who just happens to have become
President of the United States. His
old buddy Brenner is glad to help, but soon realizes that he needs his
old rival, Eddie, as well, and he has to be sprung from prison.
Instant Presidential pardon.
Despite the “we-gotta-save-the-world” urgency, there's a
sweetness here about Brenner, as he dotes on Violet (who now has a
newfound respect for him). He
wants to stop the aliens without any collateral damage, which is
difficult to do when they invade both London and Washington, D.C.
But the aliens also communicate (using 1980's pop icon figures, a
very funny idea), that they will only withdraw their invasion forces if
their video game figures are defeated.
Yes, it's a strange sight, seeing a giant Pac-Man devouring cars
and buildings. And people
get pixillated, as a way of beaming them up to the alien ship.
And cooperation between countries is always a little dicey, even
in the face of a common enemy. Despite
the goofy screenplay, there's something cute and winsome about this
film, for kids of all ages, even this curmudgeony ol' Grandpa.