Reel Review: The Emoji Movie

Emoji Movie

I was going to review The Emoji Movie with a series of emojis like this:😤😖😞😳💩💩🖕 Then I realized I’m an adult and I have a responsibility to actually tell you if this is a good film or not. Admittedly I’m not in the demographic for this film but I will say if this had been a 30 minute short or even an episode of some Cartoon Network series, I could’ve enjoyed it a bit but the central idea can’t sustain a full motion picture. It makes me wonder how it got greenlit to hit multiplexes around the world but here we are. It’s here & despite its dismal Rotten Tomatoes score, it did open decently at the box office over the weekend. It’s a sign that kids need something to see & it has been weeks since Despicable Me 3 came out so I guess they’re overdue for something or anything new.

The movie takes place in two separate realities. In the first, a shy boy named Alex (voice of Jake T. Austin) is trying to connect with a girl he likes, Addie (Tati Gabrielle). Where text messages are concerned, he agonizes over the age-old question: “to send or not to send.” When he eventually works up the courage to do it, the one that boldly goes isn’t what he expects – it has the wrong emoji! That brings us to the second reality, which is inside the phone. There, we visit the city of Textopolis, where the emojis live. Gene (T.J. Miller) is a “meh” emoji who finds it difficult to maintain a single expression and his control breaks at the wrong time: when Alex uses him. Facing expulsion and possibly deletion, Gene and his friend Hi-5 (James Corden) go in search of the codebreaking emoji Jailbreak (Anna Faris) so she can “fix” Gene. Needing to escape to the cloud, the three are chased around the innards of the phone-world by Anti-Virus Bots determined to eliminate them.

This is clearly a film where the concept came before the plot. I was reminded a bit of The Angry Birds movie whole watching it because that movie didn’t have a strong story either but who cares since it’s based around a familiar concept. In the case of this film, no matter how old we are, everyone uses emojis so the audience is instantly familiar & sons humor is generated due to our familiarity with them. I can laugh at the use of the poop emoji but it’s not enough to entertain for 80 minutes.

Where the film could’ve shined in the animation, since the world the emojis inhabit is prime for a strong visual showing but the animation is clumsy and slap-dashed. There isn’t anything that stands out and due to concept & its look, it comes off as a second tier version of Pixar’s Inside Out. There is very little imagination & that’s ultimately its biggest stumbling block.

Also uninspired is the voice acting which is a shame because there is some talent here. Much like the concept, I’m sure it was a cash grab for the vocal talent involved & it shows by the lack of energy in their performances. Incredibly, Patrick Stewart was somehow persuaded to provide the voice of “Poop” and no matter how that came together, at least you get a chuckle from his distinct voice.

The Emoji Movie also clumsily references various smartphone games and apps in what amounts to glorified commercial promotion. A “Candy Crush” scene, for example, is a focal point of The Emoji Movie’s trailer, forming an ad within an ad. The movie offers an unsubtle message about being yourself which is heavy handed since the primary audience is probably about 7 years old. It also references female stereotyping in the original emoji world. (Didn’t know that was an issue but it’s here).

Perhaps the best way to describe this film is T.J. Miller’s character of “Meh”. The film exists merely as a cash grab and was cheaply thrown together to make a quick buck. As a short, it might have passed the text, but as a film, it comes off something like this: 💩

Reel Talk gives The Emoji Movie 1.5 Reels

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About Gaius Bolling 1035 Articles
At the age of five, I knew I wanted to write movies and about them. I've set out to make those dreams come true. As an alumni of the Los Angeles Film Academy, I participated in their Screenwriting program, while building up my expertise in film criticism. I write reviews that relate to the average moviegoer by educating my readers and keeping it fun. My job is to let you know the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of cinema, so you can have your best moviegoing experience. You can find more of my writing on Instagram @g_reelz.