Those who know me, will likely think I saw this for a laugh. The Emoji Movie is being unanimously slammed by every critic currently living, potentially a few more, and I did know this before going in. I expected it to be bad but that doesn’t mean I wanted it to be. I am totally comfortable with liking a movie everyone else dislikes, why wouldn’t I be? I’m comfortable with my own opinions and don’t require validation, as satisfying as that can be. I like all of the Matrix movies, I enjoy Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes remake and I even think the World of Warcraft movie was pretty decent! Seek out hate and you’ll find it, so I sat down in the emoji movie aware of public opinion, but quietly and internally hoping for a satisfying experience. I put more effort into making this movie good than anyone involved in production did.
The Emoji Movie can’t sit idly by and be dismissed for simply being a failure, which it undoubtedly is, due to it being the most cynical and intoxicating exercise in indoctrination I have ever seen. I sat in a screening surrounded by families, mostly comprised of young children 12 and under, indulging in the story of the world inside their phones. Textopolis (not a joke) is a town filled with emoji’s. For those unaware, these are the little pictures you can send within texts, simple stuff. I actually genuinely believe this could have been made into not only an entertaining money maker, but an intelligent satire of the way social media is fetishised by the current developing generations, including my own. It could have been a colourful yet sobering look on life, much like Pixar’s wonderful Inside Out.
No, we follow Gene (T.J. Miller), he is the ‘meh’ emoji, and what that means is he has to always be meh. Just like the laughing emoji must always laugh, even when they are sad. A concept that in theory could lead to a few good jokes, alas, does not. The issue for Gene is that he has more than one emotion, which causes him to be deemed a malfunction by the other emoji’s who feel they cannot risk Gene being sent out on the phone into a text making the wrong face. Gene sets out with the Hi-5 emoji (James Corden) to find Jailbreak (Anna Faris), a hacker that can cure Gene’s affliction.
I must reiterate, I do not have a problem with this admittedly very silly concept. I don’t care, the movie is aimed at kids, and this still doesn’t rule out an intelligent and funny movie. With the right amount of creativity and effort even the most vapid concept can become something more. I can’t even say that The Emoji Movie is totally devoid of charm, with a fluid yet simplistic animation style that brims with colour, and a dedicated attempt to keep the kids from flatlining with a stream of jokes rivaling that of Airplane. Oh no they aren’t funny, but they technically are jokes. James Corden occasionally generates a chuckle with his admittedly impressive comic delivery, but every chortle felt akin to the sweetcorn inexplicably left undigested in faeces. I do really like sweetcorn, but it just isn’t worth it.
It’s all just boring. Before even getting to the part where it makes my blood boil, it just isn’t fit to be classed as entertainment. Next to no laughs, no real subtext worth discussing, and subplots that feel beyond unnecessary that only serve to make the movie 90 minutes longer than it should be. When Gene’s parents (Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge) began to have marriage issues I was just taken aback by the abruptness of it. One minute they were in the YouTube app watching Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen and the next it could all be over for them. What on Earth.
Speaking of which, the YouTube app. The only time I really remember the kids showing signs of life was when they saw an app that they recognised from their phones. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, they all got a laugh and a recital from the sprogs. Also two little girls behind me were having a fun yet staggered time dissecting the middle finger joke Hi-5 makes. That too, was an odd one.
about 5-10 minutes of the film is dedicated to getting Gene out of Candy Crush, remember that hit mobile game released 5 years ago? Another longer sequence is given to Just Dance, that’s just a recognisable brand, it isn’t even ON smartphones. The destination the main trio have to get to in order to reprogram Gene is Dropbox. Jailbreak even drops a line about how they are safe within it, because it is fully secure. The plot exists to advertise and sell these products in a way that makes the presence of Krispy Kreme in the recent Power Rangers movie seem trivial.
From what I saw, the only thing the people around me enjoyed was seeing apps they recognised. The laughs were few, and I think a few people even left. Bearing this in mind, if you are a parent with a child interested in this movie, do you really want to take them all that way, just to have them chuckle at the presence of apps that will only promote a more sedentary lifestyle? I don’t expect a kids movie to be as appealing to me as it is to them, but I do expect it to have some form of moral that pushes kids along positively in their lives. The Emoji Movie is devoid of such worth.
I didn’t even mention the kid who owns the phone the emoji’s live on. The name is Alex (Jake T. Austin) and he is a teenager that struggles to communicate without the proper emoji. Alex is trying to get the attention of a girl, which he apparently cannot do without the proper emoji. This plot is pretty much barely a part of the movie in all honesty despite the fact that it is technically what drives every event. Try to figure that one out.
Go watch Inside Out so you and your children learn about life.
Go watch The Emoji Movie and prove evolution exists, by experiencing it backwards. I suppose I can see the appeal.