When reviewing a movie, I always want to go in with a clear conscience and a sound mind when approaching any sort of work, to which I really tried to do with “The Emoji Movie,” even if I always thought it sounded pretty stupid. I never watched the trailers for the film, but I simply assumed that Sony would do their best to transcend the awful idea of turning emojis into their own movie and churn out something at least mediocre. As the film began, I settled into my seat, cleaned my 3D glasses and then immediately began to realize that what Sony was strapping me in for was something much worse than I could’ve ever imagined.
Okay, fine. I wasn’t actually about to die at the hands of Sony, but let me be clear: “The Emoji Movie” is one of the worst animated films ever theatrically released (and I saw “Rock Dog” earlier this year).
“The Emoji Movie” takes place within the phone of 15-year-old Alex, a high school freshman. Within his phone, the world of the emojis are located within the city inside the messagig app called Textopolis, where every emoji is expected to reflect their indicated emotion or tone at all times. We follow the life of Gene (T.J. Miller), a young”meh” emoji with a proclivity to feel many things beyond just the typical “meh” feeling. Beginning his job at the emoji headquarters, Gene’s job is to be scanned as the “meh” emoji whenever Alex needs to use it, but when he fails to do so correctly, Gene is ostracized by the leader of the emojis, Smiler (Maya Rudolph). With the help of the Hi-5 emoji (James Corden), and an emoji named Jailbreak (Anna Faris), they must travel across the different apps of the phone to get Gene to the cloud to be reprogrammed into a proper “meh” emoji.
I get it, I too lost brain cells having to write up that synopsis, but there’s a certain shamelessness in “The Emoji Movie” that you don’t tend to find in every other bad film nowadays. Sure, “The Circle” was atrocious and “Snatched” blew, but I could tell that there was a hint of an idea and effort in its execution, something that sets “The Emoji Movie” apart as not merely being bad, but perhaps being the worst of the worst. The film is a shameless cash grab, which isn’t foreign to Hollywood, but “The Emoji Movie” is so unsubtle in its pandering to millennials that it’s kind of sad to see this as a passable form of entertainment. The film is written like a 50-year-old pastor trying to connect with his youth congregation about modern, hip, “turnt,” “woke,” “hella” things to make him seem more relatable. The emojis in this film even get to use their fair share of appropriated AAVE (African American Vernacular English) too, so if you want a movie where annoying smiley faces speak like drag queens, “The Emoji Movie” is for you.
If you aren’t one of the three people on Earth that that sounds fun for, you begin to realize that “The Emoji Movie” isn’t a film that’s particularly fun to watch, even if you enter the film from the start to trash it. The most fatal flaw of “The Emoji Movie” is that it’s insanely boring. The world created is so bland and lifeless, with such boring caricatures and a complete lack of humor that sets this movie back so many clicks it’s not even funny at that point.Even if you look at something like “The Angry Birds Movie” from last year (also released by Sony), another shameless cash grab, at least that film had an established, expansive, believable world in it that at least gave it a palpable atmosphere. Clocking in at only 90 minutes, “The Emoji Movie” feels about 140 minutes long and never once picks up its pace into anything beyond what’s set up in the first 10 minutes. You can make a kids movie that’s not as clever or heartfelt as something from Pixar, but one thing you can never make it is boring.
Even with that, “The Emoji Movie” isn’t even that pretty to look at, either. Sony Pictures Animation has never been the most polished of any of the major animation studios, but there’s always a certain cartoonish charm with their films that set them apart, carving uniqueness out of shortcomings. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for “The Emoji Movie,” and it’s only made worse by the fact that a “Hotel Transylvania” short plays before the film, reminding audiences how good Sony Pictures Animation can be. The animation in “The Emoji Movie” also feels very inconsistent, with some scenes evoking a polish about it, however uninspired, but some scenes in the film nearly look unfinished in how sloppily crafted they were, to which I honestly can’t blame whoever was paid to spend countless hours actually making something like this. I’m glad they could snag a paycheck, but at what cost?
3D in animated films is hit-or-miss, with some studios (DreamWorks, Laika) succeeding in crafting great stereoscopic worlds for their films, but some studios don’t put much time into their 3D conversions (Pixar, Blue Sky), letting their 2D worlds immerse audiences in themselves. Sony Pictures Animation has been off and on with their 3D, with “The Emoji Movie” falling into the “off” category. The film could call for some cool 3D effects, but “The Emoji Movie” somehow can’t even do that correctly, leaving me (a self-professed 3D lover) with a migraine by the time I left the theater. When a film’s 3D disappoints, it sucks, but when it disappoints and leaves you sick, that’s unacceptable.
And then there’s the voice cast, which is the saddest part about “The Emoji Movie,” as they are a group of legitimately talented actors forced to say lines no actor should ever have to say. If anything, the complete boredom in each of the actor’s voices should be a good indication that no one really found this thing to be worthwhile past a quick paycheck, but however Sony roped the likes of Miller, Corden, Faris and Rudolph into this is simply beyond me.
“The Emoji Movie” sucks. It’s a steaming pile of poop emoji attempting to be passed off by a studio as legitimate entertainment and you should avoid it at all costs. While there are plenty of terrible films watching for comedic value, “The Emoji Movie” doesn’t have that, because it’s attempts at humor are depressing in themselves. Once the initial shock of “I can’t believe this movie is actually this bad” passes, an extreme feeling of boredom sinks in, which makes a full viewing of “The Emoji Movie” a tough accomplishment to achieve. Cash grabs are not strangers to the big screen, but a cash grab this shamelessly lazy, horrendously pandering, sloppily written, poorly acted and surprisingly ugly is a special, albeit extremely depressing and embarrassing, thing.
Directed by: Tony Leondis
Starring the voices of: T.J. Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Christina Aguilera, Sofía Vergara, Rachael Ray, Sean Hayes, Jake T. Austin, Tati Gabrielle, and Patrick Stewart.
Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: PG for rude humor
Also available in RealD 3D.
Columbia Pictures presents, in association with LStar Capital, a Sony Pictures Animation film, “The Emoji Movie”