Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Emoji Movie - Movie Review

A movie about emojis. Goddamn emojis.

Do I need to tell you how terrible this movie is? You could probably tell from the title and concept alone. A whole ninety minute film about the stupid little images that you get on your phone and are overused by obnoxious morons in text messages and on social media alike. Ever since this movie was announced it has been roundly and well deservedly mocked for the utter inanity of its premise and being clear about how it was obviously designed to leech off the surprise critical and commercial success of The Lego Movie, which also took global phenomenon without much of a story and expanded it into its own movie but worked thanks to the fantastic writing and directing work of Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Then the trailers came out and it only got worse, with everybody noting that the film’s plot essentially was going to be a rip-off of films like Wreck-It Ralph and Inside Out, whilst veering more towards the quality of the infamous Foodfight than those two aforementioned classics.

All that you have heard about this film is true – it’s an absolute piece of dreck. The trailer didn’t deceive you, The Emoji Movie is really a mishmash of children’s film clichés and stolen plot elements strung together over 90 minutes. The plot is set within two worlds, the real world and a world inside a phone (do you think Tony Leondis was watching Inside Out when he wrote the story, perchance?). We focus upon a section of a phone named… Textopolis, where we meet Gene (T.J. Miller), an emoji who’s ostensibly meant to be a ‘meh’ emoji but has more than one expression and wants to be more (so he’s basically a small yellow Wreck-It Ralph) in a world that shuns him due to everybody having to fulfil the same purpose and not deviate (again, Wreck-It Ralph phoned, it’s gonna meet the filmmakers in court soon). Oh, and he has issues with his father (Steven Wright) just for an extra scoop of ice cream on the cliché sundae - guess how that subplot gets resolved. When he messes up on his first day on the job (because plot) he has to team up with moody hacker Jailbreak (Anna Faris, playing a character who’s obviously “inspired” in design and personality by The Lego Movie’s Wyldstyle and even turns out to secretly be a princess, just like Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph) and Hi-5, an emoji who’s fallen down the popularity ladder (a character who’s essentially every fat, annoying, stupid comic relief sidekick that we’ve ever seen – appropriately enough his voice actor is James Corden) to get to The Cloud (yes, that Cloud) in order to get fixed and prove himself, all before their phone’s owner Alex (Jake T. Austin) goes to get his phone deleted as a result of it playing up thanks to Gene.

Even if you get past the fact that the plot apes every single “Be yourself!” message from kids films and TV shows and was clearly intended to rip off many of the biggest successes in the animation genre (as well as hinging on pure idiocy and fallacies – phones don’t get deleted, they go through factory resets), you’re left with a film that reeks of its absolute cynicism from the moment the Columbia Pictures torch lady is turned into an emoji in the opening studio logos right up until the dance party closing (yes, the film is so lazy that it ends with a dance party). First of all we have the whole concept of the film; everybody uses emojis and they’re big in merchandising (such as with novelty cushions) so why not take these plotless devices and give them their own film? It definitely feels like a big advert for these emoticons and not a very well thought out one either. The film’s clearly aimed at the youngest of young children – there are next to no fun little nods for the adults who get dragged along to see this, it’s all aimed at the under eights. And yet they’re not the ones who use emojis or any of these smartphone features – that role is done by teenagers and young adults (made abundant by the fact that the main human character is a high school freshman), who would clearly have no interest in a film so kiddy and juvenile. This leads to a scenario where in effect nobody can really be happy with the concept, which should have been a tip-off to the producers about how bad this film would be.

And yet it gets worse. None of the humour works at all, with the jokes being so non-descript and humourless, often relying upon lame pop culture references and puns as well as some very naff toilet humour jokes, right down to the fact that the Poop emoji is a supporting character, voiced by none other than Sir Patrick Stewart, in the same year that he gave one of his greatest performances ever in Logan (I only hope he got a very large salary for his very small yet greatly undignified role). Speaking of voices, they range from meh at best (Faris, Maya Rudolph) to utterly annoying (Corden, who’s a complete vacuum of happiness any time his voice comes out). There’s a face-palm worthy attempt to aim for social commentary concerning the alleged under-representation of female emojis (not only is this the ultimate first world problem but it makes no sense in the context of the film given that Gene’s mother (Jennifer Coolidge) is a standard ‘meh’ emoji and the main antagonist of the film (Maya Rudolph) is a female smiley face emoji, not a princess or bride that Jailbreak claims only exist) that goes nowhere and feels horribly shoehorned in by the filmmakers to try and prove they’re progressive or some shit like that. Worst of all is the utter shameless product placement that litters the entire film. Good God, this was some of the most jawdroppingly terrible uses of product placement I’ve ever seen in a motion picture. Many popular smartphone apps take up lots of room in scenes (including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Spotify), there are apps that are crucial to plot points (including Dropbox and Twitter) and worst of all are scenes dedicated exclusively to the main characters playing Candy Crush and Just Dance in order to advance their quest. This makes The Emoji Movie feel like a cynical money-grubbing product through and through, one where the companies were clearly being motivated by a big paycheck and exposure points from trying to feature themselves in the film.

The Emoji Movie is not only comfortably the worst film of the year so far, it’s a strong contender for the title of the worst animated film that I have ever seen in a cinema. A completely formulaic by the numbers kids film with the bogstandard message of being yourself and taking plot elements from far superior animated films, it stands as what The Lego Movie could have been if it really decided to wallow in being a shameless product to sell merchandise. Loaded with lame jokes, annoying characters and some of the most horrendous product placement of all time, it ends up being a film that feels done by committee, an attempt by men in their forties to prove how down with the kids they were that fails on every conceivable level. It’s not so bad that it’s good – it’s so bad that it’s horrible. Do not try to excuse this film by making the excuse that it’s just for kids either – not only is that a completely awful reasoning to make no effort but the children who were in the cinema barely laughed at all, proving just how lousy of a failure this movie is. Ultimately, this movie is complete 💩.

The Emoji Movie – directed by Tony Leondis, written by Leondis, Eric Siegel and Mike White, produced by Michelle Raimo Kouyate, with the voices of T.J. Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Jake T. Austin, Christina Aguilera and Patrick Stewart. A Sony Pictures Animation production, a Columbia Pictures film

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