The best way to describe The Emoji Movie would be with an emoji of the very face its hero aspires to achieve: meh. So many good animated features have come along in recent years. This offering from Sony Animation is not one of them. Despite a big-name cast and little life lessons, Emoji inexplicably lacks emotion. 2 out of 5.
Hidden in the depths of your smartphone lies Textopolis, home to all the emojis in your messaging app. They’re on standby whenever a phone is in use, waiting for the user to decide which one perfectly mirrors their emotions. Their work is consistent because each emoji only has one expression, regardless of how they really feel. Except, that is, for Gene (T.J. Miller), scion of the “Meh” family—his round, yellow face displays any and every emotion he feels.
That makes Gene different, and different is dangerous. In emoji-speak, it makes Gene a malfunction. Determined to fit in, Gene embarks on… wait for it… an “app-venture” with right-hand man Hi-5 (James Corden) and renegade hacker emoji Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to try and become “normal” before evil bots delete him for good. Before it’s all said and done the fate of the world—make that the fate of the phone—will rest in Gene’s yellow hands. Or actually, on his face. But you get the idea.
Corden’s exuberant hand emoji, Hi-5, is a bright spot, mainly due to Corden’s natural charm. He’s a good foil for earnest Gene and militant Jailbreak. Small children are the target audience for this movie. They’ll likely enjoy it though I didn’t hear much reaction either way from the littles in my theater.
Emoji has the potential to be a cute movie (Wreck-It Ralph meets Inside Out, maybe?) but doesn’t come close to pulling it off. It’s more like Hollywood’s imagination only went so far as to say, “People like animated movies with big-name voices and everybody loves their phones, so let’s throw that together and take their money.” Speaking of the stars, most of them are wasted; having Sir Patrick Stewart voice Poop is a fun idea, but strangely he doesn’t have the presence you’d expect from such an eminent actor or from a pile of… you know.
The great tour de phone with its visits to various app-worlds is just not engaging. Candy Crush is mildly amusing, but the dance party goes on much too long and other worlds are lame. All the internal racing around brings to mind scenes from Inside Out, while the whole “outcast trying to fit in” thing was done so much better in The Lego Movie. You’d be better off watching any of the films mentioned in this section again than wasting time on Emoji.
Just before the main feature there’s a short film based on Hotel Transylvania called Puppy. It starts off well enough, but the ending is abrupt and fairly lame. Honestly, the trailers for coming attractions were more entertaining than either Puppy or The Emoji Movie.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
There are a couple of lessons worth hearing about friendship and one’s place in the world. Other than a faint note of not putting yourself above others, there was nothing particularly spiritual about Emoji.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor
Language/Profanity: The hardest language here consists of expressions like “sweet motherboard” and “knucklebutt” though alert listeners will catch Poop muttering “What the sh—” (just the shhhh part of that last word, though).
Sexuality/Nudity: Nothing more intense than puppy love, with the sighs, stutters, and embarrassments that are par for that course.
Violence/Frightening/Intense: Emojis are chased by bots intent on destroying them, but a happy ending is never in doubt.
Drugs/Alcohol: Two emojis walk up to a bar (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn’t it?) staffed by a Trojan Horse bartender, but they don’t buy drinks. Other characters are seen consuming various things, but we’re not sure what. They don’t seem to get drunk.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Smaller children—grade schoolers and below—and their families; die-hard James Corden fans; phone-obsessed viewers who’ll put their phones down long enough to suffer an abundance of cute.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Teens who need to be cool; mature movie-goers who don’t communicate via cartoon; people who don’t like animation or lame filmmaking.
The Emoji Movie, directed by Anthony Leondis, opens in theaters July 28, 2017. It runs 85 minutes and stars T.J. Miller, Anna Faris, James Corden, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge. Watch the trailer for The Emoji Movie here.
Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).
Publication date: July 28, 2017
Image courtesy: ©SonyAnimation