Generally speaking, most titles at least have some redeeming features if you squint hard enough, or they manage to slip into so-bad-it’s-kind-of-good territory. Yet once in a while, something comes along that’s so ill-conceived, there’s no other phrase for it: The Emoji Movie is just bad.
In your smartphone exists a world called Textopolis (apparently that’s the best they could come up with), where all the emojis live. These emojis have one job and one job alone: portraying the emotion or item that they’re assigned. Our protagonist is a ‘Meh’ emoji called Gene, who is unable to stick to being ‘Meh’, much to his parents’ chagrin. With the help of an obnoxious high-five emoji voiced by James Corden, he sets out to locate a hacker emoji (eh?) who can help him get ‘reprogrammed’.
Straight off the bat, there are striking similarities to Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. It’s as if the writers (yes, it took THREE people to write this abomination) watched that, and then tried to remake it, lacking any of the charm, self-awareness or talent that made Wreck-It Ralph such a delight. Rarely will you see a more blatant, cynical money-grab film than The Emoji Movie. They shove every single emoji in there, no matter how tenuous the reasoning.
The actual design of the characters is quite unnerving. They were designed to not resemble too closely any one set of emojis (Apple, Android, Google, Facebook etc. all have their own versions) and thereby not show favouritism. However the main character in the film has an Android phone since there’s a lot of talk about viruses and jailbreaking. In fact, there’s a lot of talk about just about every internet buzzword ever. I don’t think the writers have any concept of how technology actually works – I think they just tried to make it sound as if they’re – ahem – ‘down with the kids’. It’s actually quite ironic that a film about characters that represent emotions should be so devoid of any heart or warmth.
Then there’s the issue of whether kids will enjoy it – which is hard to determine, ostensibly because they don’t have smartphones. Because they’re children and don’t need smartphones. A younger audience might enjoy the film’s bright visuals and juvenile humour, but there’s no discernible message to be found, and I find it hard to believe it’ll be the sort of film children want to watch again and again.
So who is this film made for? The human characters in the film are teenagers, and there are a lot of references that you’ll struggle to understand if you’re a small child, yet the film’s design aesthetic, characterisation and sense of humour definitely seems to be aimed at a younger crowd. Too babyish for teenagers, too confusing for little kids, and there’s nothing for adults. It’s the result of a roomful of Hollywood executives trying to create a movie based purely on trending topics. The characters actually use the word ‘hashtag’.
So don’t waste your money on The Emoji Movie – stay at home and watch The Lego Movie again, or make your own blockbuster on your mobile phone. Read a book. Send a winded emoji-laden text to a loved one. Do literally anything else than indulge in this offensively mediocre film.
The Emoji Movie is released on August 4th.