How do I put this delicately? The Emoji Movie is plain old pig slop. No one with a sense of humor and experience watching movies will likely enjoy it.
It isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination and it’s insulting to kids that this was released for their consumption. But the movie does have a saving grace. I’ll address that later on.
The plot centers around Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) who was born and raised to be a “meh” emoji. But Gene is an easily excitable guy with plenty of emotions. As he begins to start his first day as a working member of Textopolis, his parents Mel Meh (Steven Wright) and Mary Meh (Jennifer Coolidge) aren’t entirely sure he is up to the task.
Gene meets the various other emojis that occupy the phone and immediately doubts himself as the others are able to settle on one expression. He meets Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden), who immediately comes to his aid when Gene screws up on his first try as an emoji. The two enlist help from Jailbreak (voiced by Anna Faris) and the group tries to navigate their way through the phone to ensure that Gene is changed back to a normal emoji before their owner deletes everything off of his “malfunctioning” phone.
The plot itself isn’t the issue at hand. In fact, the writers really could have done some good with the plot. The premise doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is broad enough that you could take it in multiple directions. Instead, the script tries to rely on wordplay to move the plot along and fails miserably at engaging an adult audience. The world being set up is similar to that of Inside Out, but the characters involved are nowhere near interesting enough to reach a tiny bit of that movie’s climax.
Various talented actors and actresses are involved in the movie. Patrick Stewart voices the poop emoji, Sofia Vergara voices Flamenca, the dancing lady emoji, and Sean Hayes of Will & Grace fame voices the devil emoji named Steven. All three have very little participation in the movie, only making their casting all the more confusing.
While the movie is visually impressive at times, it gets ruined by editing and dialogue that feels out of place. Scenes hang on for a second or two too long, and make for awkward silences in a theater desperately waiting for laughs. The inclusion of various tech brands will elicit a groan from the adults in the crowd as they mention Facebook, Spotify, Candy Crush, and Twitter. Considering that the movie takes place within the parameters of a phone, it makes sense that they are involved. But the presentation is so clunky that you’d think you’re being handed a commercial.
After all of this, you might think that I wished this movie was made to be used as Chris Christie’s toilet paper. In reality, it somehow found a sweet spot.
The movie was bad and there is no denying that. But as the movie ended and the emojis on screen were doing an emoji-inspired dance move that was surely market-tested out the wazoo, I looked to my left and right. There were kids not older than five years old with babysitters and parents, and they were doing the dance they were watching. The movie obviously isn’t for me, and obviously isn’t for any adults with children either. It is for kids just being kids.
Kids don’t care about corporate advertising and what they are being sold. They enjoy the zest of life. They enjoy the beautiful colors in front of them, the funny voices they hear and the anthropomorphic emojis accomplishing whatever goal is in front of them.
A cynical guy like me is going to find plenty of faults in this movie. For someone with kids that needs a distraction for a couple of hours, this movie isn’t going to bite.