This weekend Sony released The Emoji Movie…that’s right. A 🎬 based on those little annoying characters you see at the end of poorly written sentences 😉 or expressions in place of actual human words. They pretty much make an animated movie about anything these days (Angry Birds) so why not this? I mean get the right voice cast together and things should be fine right? Well, unfortunately for this movie, that’s not entirely the case.
The cast is talented enough led by James Corden playing ✋, Sir Patrick Stewart playing the 💩, T.J. Miller playing 😕 and Anna Faris playing 👸 but unfortunately the script is overtly simplistic and juvenile. Now, I realize what you’re saying, an Emoji movie is supposed to be juvenile right? No, not at the expense of the audience.
Yes the audience for this movie skews young, but they’re not unintelligent. The prerequisite for this film is a general knowledge on the workings of iPhones and other android 📱 functions, specifically text messaging. So just right there the subject matter, agreed upon by the studio, implies a certain level of knowledge and understanding and in fact the film is cluttered with emoji exposition. But the dialogue and exchanges between the characters (human, emoji or otherwise) is unintelligible 🗑.
In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of a written structure at all. The point of view changes too often to gain any traction into the narrative and constantly breaks the very few number of rules it establishes. In fact, right away they go off course when the protagonist, voiced by T.J. Miller, has the name Gene, when in fact, every other emoji is named by their function i.e. Poop, Love, Tree, Elephant, etc. This is never explained or mentioned at all.
Also, Miller’s “meh” depiction plays more like a “depressed” or “sad” emoji rather than a predictable shoulder shrug. This also applies to his parent “meh’s” played by Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge.
It also suffers from really bad pacing. Now, you hear that a lot from people online, but let me tell you what that is supposed to mean. Pacing is a sum of editing and the script, so, if the pacing is bad it is a combination of either a bad script, bad editing or both. Don’t let people tell you different. In this film’s case, the script is very bad with some minor editing worries, resulting in awkward moments of hesitation with dialogue and a very forced 🎶 number in the middle which is entirely out of place.
So the story goes is that Gene (Miller) the “meh” emoji, goes on an adventure in search of a “fix” after being labeled an outcast and a malfunction by those in charge and is due to be deleted. They imply there have been other “malfunctions” but they are not seen and the reason given for these “malfunctions” is never given. So the main rationale for this character to embark on this journey of reinvention is never explained at all or explored in any meaningful way.
Most of this world exists in Textopolis which resides inside the 📲 of the lead human character Alex who among other things, is trying to win the attention of his crush Addie, a 👧 at his High School. At this school, you win over the love of your life with quality texts and razor sharp emojis.
Once Gene and his friend “Hand” leave in search of a solution to his problem, they enter the “wall paper” world, or the 📱 home screen, and meet up with Faris’s character named “Hacker” who promises a resolution.
Laughs are very few and very far between, with too much of the humor involving either cheap wordplay at the expense of the characters or a seemingly house of cards 🎪 appeal. And while the world is an attractive one, you stand no chance of being immersed in it or swept up in this emoji universe because you are shuffled from one area to the next with too swift a pace. The film is a tight 88 minutes long so its puzzling why they felt the need to hasten the pace when they could have simply added to the running ⌚.
The human portion of the story is entirely inconsequential so every time the story breaks from the emoji side of things your left wondering why bother at all? There are no lesson’s being taught or stakes to be had other than “being yourself is your best self” motif which is hardly an original idea in animation and movies in general.
The resolution is confusing since the emoji’s decide they can do whatever they want and being pigeonholed into just one expression is a futile existence. But then wouldn’t that negate the need for all of them at all?
You don’t have to be a 🎥 student or professional film critic to see the point of this movie. In fact, it was all around me as parents and grandparents were able to get out of the 🏠 with their kids for a couple of hours and have the folks at SONY do some babysitting. Looking around the theatre at one point, you could almost see the adults wishing they were seeing something else like Dunkirk or Atomic Blonde.
Ultimately it serves as an iPhone advertisement more than a film but with relatively low production costs ($50 million) their investment does reflect the product. Likely a movie that should have never been made appears to be nothing more than a cash grab.
Till next time…