'The Emoji Movie'
It was always safe to assume that ‘The Emoji Movie’ would be bad. Basing an entire animated film on the little winky faces that you text to friends when you’re too drunk to think up actual words is about as artistically bankrupt a concept as trying to turn fidget spinners into a Netflix series. However, for reasons best known to themselves, the powers-that-be at Sony decided to make an ‘Emoji Movie’ anyway. It’s about as irritating, redundant and idiotic as animated comedies get.
This allegedly inspirational alleged comedy stars a T.J. Miller as Gene, a “meh” emoji. The story is set inside a cell phone in a town called Textopolis. (If you were wondering how lazy this script is, there you go.) Every emoji is defined by a single expression and dreams of being chosen by its phone’s owner to appear in a text. That means Gene is stuck being meh. I know, that’s a lot of stupid already, but bear with me. Gene is capable of more expressions and feelings that that. When he can’t “meh” properly, Textopolis head honcho Smiler (Maya Rudolph) orders his deletion. As a result, he goes on the run with his requisite irritating buddy, Hi-5 (James Corden). They hope to find a mythical land known as The Cloud (vomit) where they can be reprogrammed. Eventually, they manage to contact a hacker named Jailbreak (Anna Faris), whom they hope can reprogram Gene into a fixed face so that he can fit in and feel happy. Of course, if you’ve seen any animated family film in the last decade, you’ll know that there’s no message more important than learning to be yourself. Yeesh…
‘The Emoji Movie’ is essentially an ‘Inside Out’ knockoff set in a smartphone and designed to include as many references and puns based on apps and the internet as possible in the hopes of entertaining those kids out there who can’t get off their gosh darned phones! Everything from ‘Candy Crush’ to Crackle (everyone’s favorite streaming service!) gets a shout-out. Some are included purely because the parent company that produced ‘The Emoji Movie’ owns them and wants your kids to use them. Others are desperate narrative contrivances, like using Spotify to “stream” between phones (huh?) or suggesting that Dropbox is some sort of heaven. (Seriously?) Regardless, the emojis’ adventures in app-land is clearly one big exercise in brand synergy that rarely actually fits into the plot. It feels like the script was written with certain sections left blank until the producers got enough money from a software company to give them their own sequence. Yes, this movie is really that transparent and horrible.
There is a world in which ‘The Emoji Movie’ was created as some sort of satirical pisstake on cell phone and app obsessions that commented on their ubiquitous nature in our lives. We don’t live in that world, unfortunately. We live in a world where ‘The Emoji Movie’ was thought up for its money and advertising potential and then assigned to co-writer/director Tony Leondis to turn into something resembling a feature film. In as much as the movie is 86 minutes long and features characters and a story, it counts. Beyond that, it’s about as empty a studio product as the world has ever seen.
The famous voices add nothing, not even Patrick Stewart as the much-hyped Poo Emoji that got far more face time in marketing than the actual movie. At least he was well paid for a few hours work. You can’t feel that bad for the actors. The ones who deserve pity are the animation team who clearly put countless hours into giving this corporate skidmark a richly designed world that it doesn’t deserve. The fact that so many people spent so much time and effort ensuring this garbage made it to screens to poison the eyeholes of the masses is a true tragedy. That work would have been better spent on almost anything else.
However, it’s not like anyone who sits down with ‘The Emoji Movie’ will emerge even remotely surprised that it’s an empty pile of $100 million garbage. What’s extra disappointing is that the movie isn’t even horrible enough to generate entertainment value out of a hate-watch. Sadly, it’s not misconceived enough to garner ironic laughter. The movie is far too boring and obvious for that. Those who dare to consume this thing face a far worse fate: 86-minutes of clichés and grating product placement that will make them question everything about their lives that led them to this point. It’s a big ol’ pile of “meh” with the occasional “bleh.” You know, the kind of thing that could be summed up entirely with a few choice emojis. I wouldn’t dare do such a thing, though. This dull dumpster fire doesn’t deserve the free advertising.