We hoped The Emoji Movie would work. This writer really enjoyed Tony Leondis’ 2008 film Igor and was praying he’d pull off a Lego Movie. Alas, the result isn’t a meeting of Wreck-it-Ralph and Inside Out, nor is it a Lego Movie immitator, nor is it actually even a film by a crew. The Emoji Movie is purely and simply an assortment of advertising dressed as a story and a boardroom invented machine to thrust the latest tech and trends onto young - the more impressionable the better - minds.
The story (such as it is) is set inside a young lad’s smart phone, within the world of Textopolis and sees Gene (T. J. Miller), a ‘Meh’ emoji, striving to be the best Meh he can be but his ability to display multiple emotions lands him and his city in a world of trouble and he, alongside formerly famed emoji High-Five (a nerve twangingly irritating James Corden), must seek out hacker Jail Break (Anna Faris) to fix his problem and save Textopolis. Candy Crush, Instagram, Spotify, Just Dance, etc. all feature in a movie supposedly about expression but the underlying ideology renders all that stone dead, leaving a greedy “film”, with a cold corporate heart shaped like a dollar.
The voicework and animation might raise smiles for tots but those smiles will come in-between them asking parents for an i-phone or if they can download that app (as was the sickening sight at our screening). Product placement is commonplace and sometimes ridiculous (Krusty Kreme in Power Rangers anyone?) but there is always a film surrounding it, such is not the case here. This is an ego massage for big brands and technology, the film opens with a proclamation that the smart phone is the greatest thing ever, only to later go even further and liken emojis to Egyptian Hieroglyphs! There is nothing wrong with emojis but this film fails to even wrangle its (admittedly desperate looking) concept into anything closely resembling a real movie.
The screenplay is littered with eye rolling dialogue, the message is at odds with the movie’s phone flogging and the characters are forgettable, annoying or unlikable. This wastes the time and talent of a film crew as the backers and boardroom bigwigs circle jerk and it’s frankly disgusting. When Genndy Tartakovsky’s Popeye film was abandoned and this wasn’t it is little wonder people are angry. From crowbarred in pop songs to the casting of Patrick Stewart as a turd, this is just one big cataclysmic failure. If people love it fine but they, as an audience, deserve better, they deserve not to be harangued by a pompous, manipulative and dishonest sales pitch masquerading as a movie. Hopefully one day, someone will explain to this writer that he’s taken it all wrong and it was meant to be a lovingly made feature. At the moment, it’s the most depressing cinema experience since Project X.
This is animation as released by Joseph Goebbels, a horrible intention hidden (badly) behind a piece of entertainment, a corporate meeting translated into a film, only it isn’t a film, it’s an advert, a gathering of flies feasting on the wounded corpse of art and culture. The Emoji Movie is so dreadfully conceived that you may rethink your stance on social media, internet and technology. This writer cannot review it as a film because it isn’t one, it simply pilfers ideas from other animated movies, using them all as a smokescreen for a promotional force seeking to tape its audiences young faces to the technological teat and keep them sucking or rather buying.
THE EMOJI MOVIE / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: TONY LEONDIS / SCREENPLAY: TONY LEONDIS, ERIC SIEGEL, MIKE WHITE / STARRING: T. J. MILLER, ANNA FARIS, JAMES CORDEN, MAYA RUDOLPH, PATRICK STEWART / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW