By: Mark Farmer, Entertainment Writer
Tony Leondis’s The Emoji Movie released to home video this past weekend, starring T. J. Miller as Gene, a “meh” emoji who wants to express more emotion than his typical responsibilities would allow. After showing a myriad of expressions at the wrong time, he finds himself on the run after being slated for deletion.
What more can be said about this film that hasn’t been said already? After watching the much-maligned film, I have no wild revelations or hidden gems to exclaim. The movie is absolutely terrible, even after giving it the benefit of the doubt and considering its context. It is a movie made for kids, and kids definitely don’t care about the intricacies of “the cloud” like any critical young adult might. That said, even ignoring all of those details, the film is still not funny, nonsensical, and downright bad.
The filmmakers’ greatest (and most obvious) error is basing a whole movie around something they absolutely do not understand. The movie is 86 minutes of watching the writers struggle to wrap their heads around what it is that kids like about or do with emojis. While some emotions may be obvious to anyone, other ones- especially symbols -are enigmas to adults outside of the loop. In one scene, the main characters visit with a group of what are considered the least popular emojis, among them being the eggplant, an emoji more popular than probably any of the other characters shown in the film. I know that the writers aren’t going to tout around the eggplant as this widespread euphemism that kids love to use, but the fact that it’s included at all (unlike the equally inappropriate middle finger emoji) shows that the writers simply don’t have any idea what they’re writing about. There are hundreds of these scenes that are not worth detailing, but continue to ram into the audience’s mind that the filmmakers are wading into unknown waters.
The second biggest mistake in The Emoji Movie is the absolute lack of creativity that nearly every scene in the film has- This being the biggest reason that most jokes fall flat. To examine this further, take a look at how other animation studios like Pixar nail this kind of atmosphere. Many of their films’ subjects- Monsters, toys, even rats -are topics that allow the writers to “fill in the blanks.” Take the most basic principles of these topics, that everyone in general would ascribe to them, and then create a story around that world, allowing writers to create their own details about the universe that these characters may live in. Pixar films are creative because they include these great details. The Emoji Movie has none of those details, and avoids every opportunity to show them off. The majority of the film’s runtime has the characters running through licensed, real-life smartphone apps, which already have all of those opportunities for creative intricacies hammered out in an insanely boring fashion. There’s rarely a moment where the writers take advantage of “filling in the blanks,” and it’s really the main reason that the movie is so dull and uninteresting- both in concept and as a whole.
To combat these issues, the film moves at a blisteringly fast pace, tarnishing any chance of the audience truly caring about any of the movie’s characters. When it’s time for the plot to develop, characters say their lines and the scene ends, while the audience is simply expected to understand what transpired, and even feel invested in the emotions of these emojis. Instead, viewers are left scratching their heads. Although kids movies need to be short and fast to keep their attention, moving things at such a pace where character motives can’t even be explained results in flat, boring personas that audiences simply don’t care about, making most of the film feel utterly pointless.
There are no surprises in The Emoji Movie. Audiences know exactly what they’re in store for the moment the trailer ends. Beyond the insanely talented voice cast, there’s virtually no redeemable aspect of the movie worth mentioning, and I can’t think of any way it could have been fixed- Starting with the base concept, The Emoji Movie was doomed to fail from the start. Is it so bad it’s good? Maybe under the influence. At 86 minutes, interested viewers may as well give it a shot, but don’t expect anything crazy beyond what the trailer holds.