July 23, 2017
It made $160 MILLION worldwide on a budget of $50 million. That's good news, I suppose.
Sir Patrick Stewart voices a poop emoji. *Spoiler alert, maybe?
Lending voices along with him are quite a who's who of H-town to a very mediocre concept of a movie.
To say that this movie came from the same guys who gave us LEGO Movie is just baffling to me.
With a story and narrative that is never carried to the end, this is truly one of the most ill-made movies of all time.
In 2014, Phil Lord and Chris Miller managed to take The LEGO Movie – what seemed like on the surface to be nothing more than a cheap cash grab by the studio – and turn it into one of the best films of that year. So going into The Emoji Movie this week, I felt a similar trepidation as I did going into that 2014 animated adventure, but I also had a sense of optimistic belief, knowing that there was a chance The Emoji Movie could prove me wrong.
For the first twenty minutes or so of the film too, The Emoji Movie manages to explain the seemingly unexplainable life of an “Emoji” on the big screen in unexpectedly interesting and ingenious ways. With references to the “favorite Emojis club” and how strange combinations of Emojis can even amuse the Emojis themselves, the film shows it has the potential to be a legitimately entertaining ride through a teenager’s smartphone. But as The Emoji Movie goes on, the film reveals itself to be just as misguided and nonsensical an endeavor as many assumed it would be when it was originally announced.
Based on the titular Emojis “living” inside of your smartphone, The Emoji Movie takes place in Textopolis, a digital city where all of a phone’s respective Emojis live, and where they spend every day ready and waiting to be scanned for a text message by their phone’s owner – in this case, a high school freshman named Alex (Jake T. Austin). But in a city where every emoji is expected to only act and feel like their assigned emotions – Mr. Poop (Patrick Stewart) can only make toilet jokes, and Smiler (Maya Rudolph) can never stop smiling – the film introduces us to the one Emoji who’s unable to act that restricted. This is Gene (T.J. Miller), a “meh” Emoji who just can’t contain the excitement he feels about living in Textopolis, and as such, becomes recognized as a social outcast among his peers.
Things go from bad to worse, however, when Gene goes against the advice of his perfectly “Meh” parents (Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge), and gets scanned as the wrong Emoji by Alex, making him be labeled as a “malfunction” by the other Emojis. As he goes on the run from antivirus bots determined to delete him from the phone, Gene journeys to find a hacker named Jailbreak (Anna Faris), who may be able to fix his source code in the Cloud and effectively turn him into the perfect “meh.”
One of the biggest problems with The Emoji Movie is that, whether intentional or not, the film feels like a very odd grab bag of elements lifted directly from many other successful animated films from the past few years. It has several of the same on-the-nose castings that helped The LEGO Movie to stand out, and unsuccessfully attempts to recreate that film’s breakneck pace and comedic style. It takes a similar approach to the virtual world and lives of its characters as Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph did, and attempts to convey the same message as Pixar’s brilliant Inside Out, without any of that film’s emotional insight or subtlety.
The film clearly has a desire to say something about the modern day world, whether that be the increasing lack of complex emotional discussion between people – when conversations nowadays can just be comprised of smiley faces and digital high-fives – or the surprisingly feminist stance of Faris’ Jailbreak. But while those are admirable desires, the film doesn’t actually follow through on any of its own commentary. Instead, The Emoji Movie acts like just bringing these points up will be enough, and turns on those ideals without a second thought the moment it needs to start wrapping things up.
That’s not to say that The Emoji Movie is an entirely unfunny or necessarily boring experience. The film’s cast – whose highlights include James Corden’s vain Hi-5 emoji, who tags along with Gene and Jailbreak in the hopes of hacking his way back into Alex’s favorite Emoji club and gets a majority of the film’s laughs – all manage to bring an extra level of energy to even the film’s most lackluster moments. But in the end, while The Emoji Movie manages to find some ingenious ways of explaining the “daily life of an Emoji,” its inability to deliver emotionally or thematically keeps it from ever feeling like a worthwhile experience.