As much as I would love to just make this whole review the “pudding” emoji, I have a little more creativity and dedication than the people who made this film (I’m using the word “film” in the loosest sense possible).
“The Emoji Movie” (God help us) is based on the texting ideograms of the same name, and follows a “meh” emoji (voiced by T.J. Miller) who has more than his one assigned emotion, and sets out with a Hi-5 emoji (James Cordon) and a hacker (Anna Faris) to try and reprogram himself. Patrick Stewart, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Jake T. Austin, Sofia Vergara and Christina Aguilera also star as Tony Leondis directs.
When this film was announced everyone collectively groaned. Like, as a human species. The Syrian rebels put down their arms to roll their eyes with al-Assad and Hillary Clinton shared a long sigh with Donald Trump. The idea of making a feature film based on emoji’s is the epitome of both American commercialism and the Hollywood original ideas well running dry. When the teaser trailer dropped, however, I held onto a glimmer of hope; the meh emoji slowly announcing the film and saying he was “absolutely euphoric” in a deadpan tone made me chuckle. Then the cancer of a full trailer was released and we all braced for the impact that was to come on July 28, 2017. And is “The Emoji Movie” as bad as it looked and as unoriginal as we initially feared? I mean, yeah.
So this is like if “Inside Out” (which is already an “Osmosis Jones” ripoff itself) and “Wreck-It Ralph” had a lovechild that turned out to be a bad seed. There is nothing original about this film, from its standard plot to its annoying characters. No actor here sounds like they’re even trying; they’re all just mailing it in for a paycheck. Patrick Stewart probably finished filming “Logan” and was like “I want a new boat” and his agent was like “I have this script that’s a piece of [expletive] where you play a piece of [expletive]” and Sir Patrick smiled because he knew he found his boat. James Cordon is especially unbearable as a talking hand, and I’m typically a fan of his (albeit seemingly sometimes contrived) personality.
One of the worst things a comedy can do is acknowledge it just told a joke and explain the joke to the audience, and this film does that every chance it gets. The trio enters the Dropbox app and are sitting in a box and Gene the meh emoji goes, “so why do they call this Dropbox?” and suddenly they drop into a freefall and he yells “oh so that’s why they call it a drop box!” Just falling would have been punchline enough; we don’t need to be spoonfed information. I get this is a kid’s film but some subtly goes a long way. When the Gingerbread Man spits on Lord Farquaad in “Shrek” and tells him to eat him, he doesn’t follow it up with “get it? Both because I’m a cookie and I’m telling you to screw off!”
In fact this whole film plays out like it was written by an adult who doesn’t know how teens talk and text, or even how phones work. Not only is the eggplant emoji not in the teenage owner’s “most popular” section, it’s in the Loser’s Longue for the never used emojis. Sorry, but every teen boy uses the eggplant double entendre on a daily basis. Also the film insists that “words are lame” and emojis “are the most important communication invention in history.” Ah, yes, because it was emojis that the Titanic used to send for help, and who could forget when Alexander Graham Bell invented them?
I could get into how this entire film is made to take advantage of a known-thing or to push certain apps like Spotify and Dropbox (or the Just Dance app, available now for iOS and Android!) but I won’t, because you knew that the moment you heard about this thing.
Look, I think I’ve given “The Emoji Movie” all the words that it deserves. The absolute ONLY positive I can give the film is I was never totally, completely bored. Like I hated its existence and was frustrated, but unlike “The Circle” or “Captain Underpants” I at least was distracted from the real world for 86 brief minutes and didn’t (fully) wish I was instead watching paint dry. I’m going to end this review with my reaction to the film spelled out in emojis, because this thing does not deserve a normal rating: