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A scene from Pixels.

Last summer, I revisited the same conference centre where, in 2011, I reported on the federal Liberals' historic defeat under Michael Ignatieff. There were significantly fewer crying young professionals this time. I can't expose much else, though, because I signed a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting me from revealing what I saw.

But I can confirm the following, based on publicly available information: I was on the Toronto set of the Adam Sandler movie Pixels. I was there because, 24 hours earlier, Toronto media started tweeting about a Craigslist posting that called for extras to play reporters. A few journalists made fun of it and then went about their days. I ignored the noise and immediately responded to the ad, and included the following line: "I am an actual reporter in real life." I got the part six minutes later.

Having been on book leave for two months, I'd gone a little stir crazy, so pretending to do my real job in a film felt absurd enough to try. But that wasn't the only reason I was there. This was an Adam Sandler vehicle featuring classic video games as its central plot device. Forget the cynical media echo chamber: I'm a millennial (ugh), and two decades ago, Adam Sandler and classic video games were my two favourite things in the world. Of course I jumped in.

I can't talk about being on set, but that didn't stop me from seeing the movie – and trying to decide whether I'd regret attaching myself to it. So at an early screening, I took it in: 105 minutes of Sandler's bumbling-but-self-aware Sam Brenner using his '80s video-game skills to save the world from aliens who've taken those games' characters for avatars.

I showed up on screen for about seven seconds, as a White House press corps reporter trying to get a question in with the U.S. president, played by Kevin James. (I was not the only real reporter: CP24's Diana Petrucci also tried to get the King of Queens's attention.) Seeing myself in a film was fun, I guess. If newspapers die, some sad semblance of my existence will be preserved in pixels – literally. But by the time I was onscreen, I was already distracted trying to unpack the rest of Pixels.

There was little to no story – just a series of enemies for Sandler's team to defeat. Major plot devices are left unexplained to central characters until revealed through last-minute jokes. The film's poster isn't even related to the movie – it shows Pac-Man eating San Francisco, which is nowhere to be found onscreen. And Pixels was startlingly white-and-male for 2015: Three of the biggest non-white speaking characters are all immediately abducted or injured by the aliens, while Serena Williams, in a cameo, is effectively reduced to a sex-object-turned-plot-device.

At the start of the film, a Pac-Man-playing teenage Brenner reveals why he's so adept at arcade games – there's a pattern to them, which he uses for maximum payoff. This is a tactic that comes in handy as the film goes on, but it's also a metaphor for Sandler's career: he's rarely strayed from his single-character schtick since I declared Happy Gilmore my favourite movie 19 years ago. Sandler's goofy underdog always turns his fortunes around, always gets the girl, always saves the day. And he's still a box-office blessing – a million-buck schmuck.

But when I walked out, I realized I'd laughed at (some of) the jokes. I cheered for Sandler, and Josh Gad, and Peter Dinklage, as they shot laser cannons and chased Pac-Man around the Ryerson campus in Mini Coopers. I still saw the movie. I walked in a skeptic – a byproduct of life in a newsroom – worried that I'd somehow feel ashamed for attaching myself to this movie, now that I was far more familiar with Sandler's schtick than in 1996. But there was a self-awareness I appreciated that elevated the familiar plot. The video games were rendered pretty faithfully. And the action was fun – it is, after all, blockbuster season.

There's another recurring bit in the film: the Cheap Trick song Surrender. It's a song about realizing that, in spite of your cynicism, your parents might be cooler than you think. In Pixels, it's probably a metaphor for Sandler's schmuck discovering his societal value. But it's also an anthem about suspending your disbelief: just because something seems annoying or uncool doesn't mean that it can't be fun. So yeah, I had fun being in Pixels for seven seconds. I even had fun seeing it.

But, as Surrender further recommends, I probably shouldn't buy in too much. And even though I show up in Pixels, I'll probably remember this summer far more for Mad Max.

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