It probably seemed like a good idea: everyone has a smartphone, and all those icons you use to express yourself through text can feel like a little community of their own – so why not tell their story, by making a film about the private lives of those little digital impulses, that reflects the life and impulses of the person using the phone? Like a version of Tron for the pre-tweens, except – crucially – without the literal interaction between user and device.
And that’s where this breaks down, not because it lacks the humour, insight, imagination and soul that might have made it worth attempting – although it is sorely lacking in humour, insight, imagination and soul – but because nobody thought far enough beyond that initial idea to figure out how this might connect with an audience. This is a film that’s really only going to appeal to those too young to be using smartphones – our three-year-old test audience of one judged it “Not bad” – so those who understand it are going to find it puerile, and those who don’t find it puerile aren’t really going to understand what it’s doing.
Which is not to say it hasn’t found enough audience to become a success. It’s bright and colourful and fast and noisy enough to distract from its mid-range animation budget, but although the plot keeps you moving quickly from one set-piece to another, despite the brashness there’s really nothing here that’s very stimulating visually. Almost every set or action or line of dialogue feels like the substandard equivalent of something you’ve seen or heard being done better elsewhere.
Anyway, the plot. Boy meets girl, boy sends girl emoji text, emoji doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, girl leaves boy hanging, and emoji is scheduled for deletion due to its “malfunction”. The emoji – Gene (Miller) – then goes on the run inside Textopolis (the smart phone’s innards), after being accidentally rescued by Hi-5 (Corden) until eventually, the electronic circuits discover that hey, it’s okay for them to have emotional lives too.
It’s a reasonable cast and it sounds like they’re mostly having fun, although Corden for one feels considerably less interested the further in you get, and rapidly becomes irritating. There’s just no reason to care about any of them, without the collision between worlds that you got in Tron, so the whole thing ends up feeling a bit “So what?”
In fact, the best thing about the disc is the Hotel Transylvania short they’ve included that only feels like it’s there in order to make sure they sell some copies of the main feature. Now that was rather funny, and felt like it had had some thought put into it.
Extras: Hotel Transylvania short Puppy, featurettes, songs, games
THE EMOJI MOVIE / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: TONY LEONDIS / SCREENPLAY: TONY LEONDIS, ERIC SIEGEL, MIKE WHITE / STARRING: T.J. MILLER, JAMES CORDEN, ANNA FARIS, MAYA RUDOLPH, PATRICK STEWART, CHRISTINA AGUILERA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW