When I decided to do movie reviews I knew there would be a few movies I would be DREADING seeing for the sake of my hobby. Some films I just knew were going to be a chore to sit through, and among those I believed would give me an inevitable headache was “The Emoji Movie”, the second of three Sony Animation projects being released in 2017. See, I had already planned these funny emoji-based puns, including the use of a certain brown emoji, to describe this movie even before I saw it. However, as is turns out while “The Emoji Movie” is far from any definition of perfection or originality and is by all means a pretty bad movie, it’s not quite as horrendous and unwatchable as its 16% Rotten Tomatoes score would have you think.
“The Emoji Movie” stars T.J. Miller as Gene, a “meh” emoji that can show numerous different expressions, which in the world of Textopolis within a young boy’s phone is an abnormality for emojis. After Gene fails to fulfill his duties as a “meh” emoji, causing a bit of panic among the citizens of Textopolis, he is branded a “malfunction” by the text center’s leader Smiler, played by Maya Rudolph, and goes on the run with Hi-5, a hand-based emoji played by James Corden who was once popular with the phone’s owner but has sense lost his popularity. In an attempt to fix their individual situations the two emojis hunt down the mysterious Jailbreak, a female emoji played by Anna Faris, to make their way to the Cloud to set things right with Software Agents in pursuit to complete Gene’s deletion from the phone.
I know a lot has already been said about this film by more well-known reviewers so I’m going to start by saying to some extent I agree with them about several issues with “The Emoji Movie”, mostly the fact that it lacks imagination beyond its unique, and rather pandering, backdrop within a smart phone using emojis as characters. A lot of comparisons have been made between this film and Pixar’s emotion-themed film “Inside Out” and it’s not hard to tell why. Both films tackle obscure backdrops by giving personality and life to otherwise inanimate, or even symbolic subjects (i.e. emojis and emotions). Both films also present a conflict that threatens to see the worlds the characters inhabit be destroyed by the poor actions of a character who is just trying to do the right thing as they see it. It’s a plot that was done MUCH better in “Inside Out” even if it does fit in with the setting of “The Emoji Movie”, but it’s not the only example of “The Emoji Movie’s” biggest sin which his it’s lack of overall originality.
The problems is that “Inside Out” is far from the only comparison that can be drawn from this film as it leans on some of the most generic cliché’s you can imagine in terms of storytelling. There are popular pop songs, a love story, action set pieces, and an obvious villain, with no real attempts at telling something new in any of these cases making for the same old song and dance we’ve all experienced before in many different ways. While one could argue there’s not a lot of original ground left to tackle and that the setting of “The Emoji Movie” and its source material should be enough to earn it points for originality there needs to be at least some semblance of effort on the part of the writers to shy away from past films to give this movie its own identity beyond its obvious utilization of a popular current fad. It’s almost like the writer’s said “Lets make a movie about emojis to cash in on their popularity. We can use the same stories everyone knows and love because maybe they’ll want to see it all over again with a poop emoji this time”. Actually…I’m pretty sure that’s EXACTLY what they said.
However,this is where I am conflicted because for all the film’s flaws it’s not necessarily a HORRIBLE movie. It’s definitely watchable. The voice acting is great, the scenery is colorful and fun to experience, and they even used actual brands found on smart phones today including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter which showed a bit of dedication to the source material on the part of the filmmakers even if these could be argued as simple easy advertisements hidden in the movie. Hey, it’s a movie set in a smart phone. I can cut it some slack there especially sense adding these more authentic details improved the film. Take a note Michael Bay, this is how to properly work advertisements into your movies…sorry I digress *clears throat*. The comedy and emoji-based puns are also pretty funny and got me chuckling quite a few times as easy as these jokes were to lean on. It wasn’t a hard film to get into, which is good considering it’s a children’s film, and the simple and cliché story actually kept me engaged which is a plus even if the film took the easy way out to hold the viewer’s attention. I went into “The Emoji Movie” wanting to hate it and came out thinking it wasn’t even the worst film I’d seen this year, so there’s that to its credit I guess.
Even as watchable as the movie is, “The Emoji Movie” also suffers from poor and, in some cases, predictable pacing. You know what’s going to happen, you know they’re going to get out of it, and you know that everyone’s going to live happily ever after. It’s a kids movie after all, come on, but still there’s no real whammy moment. Nothing serves as the spark to make you think “oh that’s new, I’m glad I saw that”. The film fails to have any real drama at all, leaning more on visuals and its silly gimmick than good storytelling even for a story we’re already used to. Every dramatic scene, conflict, or story building moment feels rushed and sloppy giving the impression that even the filmmakers wanted to be done with this adventure as quick as possible. I know this movie was made for kids, but it insults their intelligence when all the conflict is watered down which is a sin this film commits time and time again.
I can admit to some extent I DID enjoy watching “The Emoji Movie” a lot more than I expected to. In some ways it really did surprise me as the cast was great, the set designs were wonderful, and the story was fun to watch so even though I went into it kind of wanting to kate it I found it to be a pleasantly watchable film. The problem is I knew the story, I knew the ending, I knew the conflict and I knew how everything would play out. As stupid as it might seem to say, making a film about emojis could have opened the door for a unique and intriguing story that stood on its own and offered more legitimate insight into our obsession with technology and picture-based reactions. What we got instead was a movie full of unapologetic clichés and an uneven pace that, while redeemable in some ways, fails to live up to whatever potential there was to consider. What we ended up with was an uninspired, gimmicky film that offers a bit of style and a few laughs but no substance or overall memorability to back it up.
I promised myself I’d TRY to use at least one emoji pun so…To describe it using an emoji I’d probably have to use the most appropriate one of all, a “meh” emoji…Alright not the best emoji joke I could have used but since I think the poop one is a bit too much, you get the idea…