The Emoji Movie : Movie Review
The LEGO Movie came out in 2014 and Chris Miller and Phil Lord managed to do what many thought impossible – take a cheap studio cash grab by the studio and turn it into arguably one of the best films of the year. So looking at The Emoji Movie, a similar feeling came about as going into that 2014 animated adventure, hoping that The Emoji Movie could prove almost everyone wrong.
A solid start for the Emoji Movie? *Hi5*
Over the first half hour of the film, The Emoji Movie manages to explain the unexplainable life of an “Emoji” on the big screen in surprisingly interesting and ingenious ways. References to the “favorite Emojis section” and how weird combinations of Emojis can amuse even the Emojis themselves goes to show the film has the potential to be a legit entertaining ride through a teenager’s smartphone. But as The Emoji Movie goes on, it goes on to prove everyone right as a misguided and nonsensical endeavor as many assumed it would be.
Based on the titular Emojis “living” inside your smartphone, The Emoji Movie takes place in Textopolis, a digital city where all of a phone’s Emojis live, and spend every day ready & waiting to be scanned for a text or SMS by their phone’s owner – a high school freshman named Alex (Jake T. Austin). In a city where every emoji is expected to act and feel only 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 – Gene (T.J. Miller), a “meh” Emoji who just can’t seem to contain his excitement living in Textopolis, and thus, becomes known as a social outcast among his fellow Emojis.
Things quickly go from bad to worse when Gene goes against the advice of his perfectly “Meh” parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Steven Wright) and gets scanned as the wrong Emoji by Alex, labeling him as a “malfunction” by his fellow Emojis. As he goes on the run from antivirus bots determined to delete him from the phone, Gene journeys to track down a hacker named Jailbreak (Anna Faris), who may be able to fix his ‘source code’ in the Cloud, effectively turning him into the perfect “meh.”
One of The Emoji Movie’s biggest problems is that, intentional or not, the film feels like a very strange mishmash of elements taken directly from many successful animated films from the past decade. It has many of the same on-the-dot castings that helped The LEGO Movie to stand out so well and makes futile attempts to recreate that film’s breakneck pace and comedic stylings. It takes a similar approach Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph in terms of a Virtual world while attempting to convey the same message as Pixar’s amazing Inside Out, without any of that film’s emotional insight or nuance.
But does it get better?
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 commentaries. 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.
This doesn’t mean that The Emoji Movie is an entirely unfunny or boring experience. The film’s cast highlighted by James Corden’s vain portrayal of the Hi-5 emoji, who tags along with Gene and Jailbreak with hopes of hacking his way back into Alex’s ‘favorite Emoji club’ brings a majority of the film’s laughs and manages to bring an extra level of energy to try and even out the film’s most lackluster moments.
In the end, while The Emoji Movie tries to find ingenious ways of explaining the “life of an Emoji,” its lackluster delivery of an emotionally or thematically sound experience keeps it from ever feeling like a worthwhile endeavor.