DIR: Tony Leondis • WRI: Tony Leondis, Eric Siegel, Mike White • PRO: Carlos Zaragoza • DES: Keith Brian Burns • MUS: Patrick Doyle • CAST: T.J. Miller, Anna Faris, Sofía Vergara
It’s bad. When the best jokes of the film are from the casting director choosing Steven Wright’s dry monotone voice to represent “Meh” and having “Poop” attached to Patrick Stewart’s casting credits, no question about it, it’s a bad movie. However, despite its overwhelmingly negative reception in the U.S. both critically and publically, this is not one of the worst films ever made. Not even close. The Emoji Movie is a blip in an otherwise tremendous year for animation and serves as nothing more than a monetized advertisement for naïve kids. The ‘80s had Mac and Me, the ‘90s had Space Jam, and the ‘00s had Shark Tale; suffice to say that The Emoji Movie is nothing new. And yet, the unapologetically blunt commercialism of its own title and marketing makes sitting through it that little bit more excruciating from the moment Columbia’s company logo is snapped and stickered on a mobile phone.
Having forced Sony to cancel several upcoming productions to fix all its attention on The Emoji Movie, it’s astonishing how apathetic the efforts of everyone involved truly feels. The story can be easily surmised as one of its three screenwriters (including School of Rock writer, Mike White, surprisingly) having sat down to watch Inside Out one night with their kid and sent out the Pixar movie’s plot as a rough treatment to fulfil a looming deadline. That might sound extremely critical of the film’s originality, so in the sake of fairness, it also mimics Wreck it Ralph. In fact, The Emoji Movie borrows so heavily from Disney’s recent releases that it would hardly be surprising if part of the agreement between the two studios over use of Spiderman involved Disney legally abdicating their right to sue Sony for heavily plagiarising their material.
Quite simply, in the world of Textopolis, emojis are created to serve one purpose and one emotion. That is, except for Gene Meh (T.J. Miller), who is capable of expressing multiple emotions of his own free will. Despite the film showing plenty of characters doing likewise, Gene is cast as a “malfunction” by his community. When his mistake causes the phone’s user to consider erasing his phone, Gene sets out to find a way to make everything right again, becoming one emotion and saving his world. It’s not difficult to imagine what Gene learns along the way, as The Emoji Movie serves up a half-hearted platitude of being yourself. Even its core theme is undermined, however, as a supporting character, Jailbreak (Anna Faris), is taught the troubling message of just accepting her place in the world, despite frequent acknowledgement of how systematically oppressive her world may be.
However, this would be giving more thought to The Emoji Movie than the filmmakers themselves had possibly given. In truth, the only exception that makes the feature-length commercial substantially worse than any other bad animation is its existence pulls down the quality of reasonably good kids films with similar commercial intent. If anything is to blame for The Emoji Movie, it’s the surprising success of both The Lego Movie and The Angry Birds Movie that paved the way for other studios to be equally meta and unapologetically forward in its branding. The Emoji Movie will hopefully bring this trend to a close as it offers nothing worthwhile for either children or adults.
To put it in the film’s own terms, The Emoji Movie is one big pile of Patrick Stewart.
G (See IFCO for details)
The Emoji Movie is released 4th August 2017