Imagine a world where Hollywood doesn’t know what to feed children in between Pixar’s latest outings so they dive into your iPhone and come up with the brilliant plan to make a feature-length film out of those yellow smiley things you sometimes use to emphasize a point or make your text message a little more decorative.
Sadly, we have entered that world, where you have to let the following sink in: The Emoji Movie. This is actually a thing that exists.
Yes, director and co-writer Tony Leondis (he co-wrote with Mike White and Eric Seigel) was given the illustrious job of helming The Emoji Movie, a new low in what Hollywood thinks movie-going families of the world deserve.
In the film’s world, emojis are the prime source of communication, focusing on one teenager, who just can’t seem to pick the right emoji to express to a girl how he feels about her. Little does he know, inside of his smartphone is an entire universe of emojis, trying to find their proper place. Gene (T.J. Miller), the “meh” emoji, is having a crisis of character, since he cannot fully commit to his “meh” role, like his parents (Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge). Gene is able to express himself in many ways and in emoji land – excuse me, Textopolis – this is not a good thing. You must stick to your assigned role. Textopolis is strangely authoritarian.
“…so painfully lame and an 86-minute reminder that Hollywood could do better because your children deserve better.”
Gene’s secret gets out and causes mayhem, which makes him the target of the maniacally happy Smiler (Maya Rudolph), the leader of Textopolis. Through her megawatt smile, she decides to have Gene wiped away for good. He teams up with Hi-5 (James Corden) to go on the run and escape the dubious plan of Smiler. Along the way, they meet Jailbreak (Anna Faris), who they hope can help them with all of their programming needs.
Sounds harmless enough, right? It probably is but The Emoji Movie is so painfully lame and an 86-minute reminder that Hollywood could do better because your children deserve better. Every joke, every gag and every reference is so contrived and on-the-nose, the movie never lets anything play out as potentially silly because it desperately explains what every joke means and why it should be funny. There is a severe lack of imagination running throughout the entire film.
The cast does what it can with the little and embarrassing material they have been given. It must be mentioned that Shakespearian trained actor Sir Patrick Stewart was cast as Poop, the googley-eyed poop emoji, which should have offered a few laughs. (It’s supposed to be pudding and we both know it.) He is not given anything to do, which seems like a wasted opportunity if you are going to bring a classically trained actor in to read the lines of a demeaning part.
Ultimately, The Emoji Movie is playing to the younger crowd, who really shouldn’t have an iPhone already, therefore probably don’t even know what an emoji is. It’s always interesting to go to these movies geared towards a younger audience and see how it plays to the targeted demographic. There was a palpable stillness and sense of boredom throughout my showing, which hardly elicited a laugh from the younger crowd. Sorry, Sony Animation, kids just aren’t buying into your product placement excuse of an animated distraction.
If any good came from The Emoji Movie, it’s when one of the characters said “We’ll always have Paris,” to another character. As movie-watching adults, we know that’s a Casablanca reference but you wouldn’t think kids would get that. One kid in my showing joyfully proclaimed, “Hey, that’s from another movie!” Take a lesson from those parents. Show your child Casablanca and stay far away from The Emoji Movie.
The Emoji Movie (2017) Directed by: Tony Leondis. Written by Tony Leondis, Mike White and Eric Siegel. Starring T.J. Miller, James Corden, Maya Rudolph, Anna Faris, Patrick Stewart, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge.