Every film critic knows the legend of the supposed film producer who would clap after a movie, no matter bad or good, because he knew how hard it was to get movies made. If that producer saw The Emoji Movie, he’d probably stick his hands in a meat grinder.
Here is a movie so bad, so shameless, so desperate, so obvious, and so completely devoid of any redeeming qualities that it’s almost unreviewable in any traditional sense. Unwatchable is one thing, but unreviewable is another. How do I appropriately describe the complete waste of talent, money and resources that is The Emoji Movie without unintentionally persuading you to see it out of irony? Well, I’ll try my best.
The plot, to the best of my knowledge, goes like this: Gene Meh, a “meh” emoji (TJ Miller), is starting out his first day at work in Textopolis, the inside of a cell phone owned by 14-year-old Alex (Jake T. Austin), where every emoji sits in their cubes waiting to be presented (or “scanned”, in the context of the movie) into a text when chosen by the phone’s user.
The gamble is that when being scanned, they have to make the right face that correlates to the type of emoji they are, or the emoji in the text will come out weird looking and they’ll be forced to step down from their place in the cubes. On his first day, Gene makes the wrong face and the leader of Textopolis, a smiling emoji named Smiley (Maya Rudolph), deems him a malfunction and starts sending robots to chase after and delete him from the phone.
To combat this, Gene, joined by High-Five, the high five emoji (James Corden), goes on a product placement-filled, desperately plotted journey through Alex’s phone to find a hacker who can permanently make him “meh” like he’s supposed to be. Meanwhile in the real world, Alex is trying to find the perfect emoji to send to a girl he likes named Allie so he can get her to go out with him.
Spoiler (because who cares?): Gene decides in the end that it’s better to be yourself then abide by a label put upon you, and when Alex chooses him in a text, he makes a variety of faces and emotions at once, which turns out to be the perfect emoji to win Allie over. There, I’ve just ran through the entire story of the movie, so now you don’t have to see it. Nor should you. If you see The Emoji Movie in the theater, you’re giving Sony the approval they need to make more soulless, empty garbage just like it. I sort of regret even paying to see it to write this review.
To fully understand why this movie is the complete abomination that is it, you have first ask why it exists. What are its intentions? Aside from bringing potential money into Sony Pictures Animation, the best I can tell is that it’s a movie made to give highly gullible and easily entertained children something to look at for 86 minutes while the parents in the audience are bombarded with a painful battering ram of product placement for Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, and basically any other common app one might fight on the average mobile phone. It’s the cinematic equivalent of dangling keys in front of a baby, except these keys are decked out in gold, and paid for and sponsored by some of the world’s biggest international media conglomerates.
I was going to write “this movie is one of the rare films that fails spectacularly in every single aspect,” but that would be wrong, because to fail at something, you have to try. And this movie doesn’t give enough of a shit to even try to be more than just a brazen attempt to cash-in on recognizable properties. It isn’t deserving of a traditional breakdown-style review format. The movie is 86 minutes long (though it feels about three times that), and if I had to guess, about 70 of those minutes are blatant advertisements for those aforementioned apps and brands.
The absolute worst one is an extended sequence towards the middle in which, for reasons I don’t have enough self-respect to remember, Gene, High-Five and the hacker, Jailbreak (Anna Faris), are stuck playing Just Dance and Christina Aguilera plays a giant dancing avatar that teaches everyone to do “The Emoji Bop.” If you thought the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan was an unrelenting, ceaseless look at the face of true terror and exhaustion, boy do I have something new for you.
Or maybe you’d prefer the scene when our protagonists go into Candy Crush and Gene gets mistaken for one of the yellow candies. Or maybe you’d like the part where they sail on Spotify streams (meaning literal streams) to get from one side of the phone to the other. Or maybe the one where they travel to the Dropbox app to finally get Gene the singular “meh” emotion he’s been searching for.
The movie is a never-ending onslaught of in-jokes about things we all know related to phones, in the same fashion that Smosh: The Movie was with YouTube and internet culture. Also like that movie, it’s not funny even for a second (spar one line of dialogue which made me blow air out my nose slightly harder than I usually do) and the entire thing comes off as a completely pointless exercise in finding out how many brand names and recognizable objects can be referenced within the movie’s runtime.
But here’s what I wonder: what is the point in advertising any of this? Most people who have and actively use smart phones, regardless of age, are already connected on things like Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. What does Sony get out of shilling themselves out for these brands, aside from obvious funding? Also, what kind of 14-year-old uses Dropbox? As far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong), that’s not a built-in app on any phone.
It would even be okay that the movie is an uninteresting, headache-inducing, unfunny, cringe-worthy, indecent heap of garbage if it at least looked okay, but it can’t even accomplish that. The animation is generic, uninspired and ugly, and it hurts your eyes the longer you look at it. Scenes filled with many different colors that are supposed to be a visual wonder (I think) are instead a rainbow of reasons why you should have brought some Ibuprofen into the theater. It’s grotesque and awful to look at every second – unhinged putrid visual vomit.
There are some moments – only some – in the real world when the outdoor backgrounds look decent and have some somewhat nice detail to be noticed, but it isn’t enough. Many have accurately pointed out that the animation style is trying to mimic Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. I would also throw Wreck-It-Ralph in there for comparison. The film’s visual aesthetic is like handing a toddler a box of crayons and commanding it to recreate the Mona Lisa.
But above everything else, The Emoji Movie’s most heinous quality, and it’s most offensive, is the way in which it actively discourages young children from using the English language and instead pushes them towards using emojis for casual discourse. At one point, someone in the movie says – and I’m quoting this verbatim – that emojis are “the most important invention in the history of communication.” To that, I argue that the other most important invention is the middle finger. What an absolutely abhorrent and regressive mindset through which to present your movie.
It is for this reason that if your child asks to go see this movie, tell them no, firmly, and with words. Tell them to go outside and play instead. Build a fort. Climb a jungle gym. Hell, even just play with some sticks. Just about any physical activity I can think of, including lying down doing nothing, and going to the bathroom, are better and healthier choices for your child than taking them to see this shameless, morally corrupt, repulsive, loathsome display of what I’m actively losing to will to call a “movie.”
Teach your children to use their words and to have a conversation that exists on a level higher than exchanging of digital smiley faces. Maybe I’m not old enough to say this myself (I didn’t have a cell phone until I was about 11), but things like The Emoji Movie are what is making the current generation of children so oblivious and out of touch with reality. Garbage like this makes people dumber.
Presented without context or character, here is a list of actors and actresses who have lended their voices to this pile of waste: TJ Miller, Maya Rudolph, Sir Patrick Stewart, James Corden, Jeff Ross, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Rachel Ray, Sofia Vergara, Anna Faris, Christina Aguilera, Sean Hayes. I list them all out here because from the release of this movie until the end of their careers, they will have a permanent, irreversible blunder on their resumes. A kind of Movie 43-level blunder that can never be undone that will be forever attached to their image. Sitting through the end credits and discovering the voice talent that went to waste here was like reading through a list of unfortunate torture victims who were patients in a government experiment that went horribly wrong.
Oh, but don’t just take my word for how awful it is. I saw this in a pretty packed theater, mostly filled with children who had dragged their parents to see it on a sunny Friday afternoon, and it was almost dead silent in the theater from beginning to end. Scenes that ended with jokes or supposed punchlines were met with an uncomfortable silences. Songs that encouraged the audience to move around and get interactive were met with a collective rock-like stillness. Multiple times during the film, I saw the father sitting in front of me scratch his head out of pure confusion at the cinematic disaster he was witnessing. The children were bored, the parents were bewildered, and I was angry.
It is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the worst things I have ever seen. Not just in movies, but in anything. And I saw it so you don’t have to. So please, from writer to reader, I beg you: Don’t give Sony your money. No matter how morbidly curious you are. Keep yourself, and your children, as far away as possible from this worthless, horrible, appalling, unredeemable, morally crooked, asinine, unethical, rotten, fraudulent piece of steaming hot excrement. You will be a better person having not seen it.
EMOJI MOVIE OVERALL RATING: 0/10
Stray observation: I couldn’t help but notice that some of the emojis, including the Anna Farris character Jailbreak, are wearing clothes, while others are not. Why does an emoji need clothes? When they get sent to the text, they’re just a face. Also, does this mean the ones without clothes, such as our main character Gene, are nude?
Note: Before The Emoji Movie starts, viewers will get a new Hotel Transylvania short film called Puppy! This short isn’t anything groundbreaking, but if you like the Hotel Transylvania films, you’ll like it, and in about 4 minutes, it has more story, character depth, humor and overall entertainment value than it’s following feature presentation.