Children’s entertainment is a tightrope walk. For every thoughtfully scripted, masterfully produced offering, there are ten no-budget, quickie productions simply there to take advantage of parents in need of a visual babysitter for 90 minutes.
The Emoji Movie isn’t sloppy, but it’s creatively bankrupt, merely there to make jokes about poop and sell kids on the wonders of smartphone ownership. Crammed with product placement and dramatically constructed from parts of better films, The Emoji Movie is a soulless endeavor and a painful viewing experience.
Sony Pictures Animation
The Emoji Movie is a one-note joke
that’s not funny, its highest achievement
being sentient fecal matter.
Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) is a “Meh” Emoji who lives in Textopolis, which is located inside a smartphone owned by teenager Alex, who’s working up the nerve to send the perfect sign to his crush that he’s interested.
Welcomed into the texting grid by Smiler (Maya Rudolph), the first Emoji, Gene is ready to prove his worth, hoping to impress parents Mel Meh (Steven Wright) and Mary Meh (Jennifer Coolidge).
When the time comes for Gene to execute his one face, he flips out, ruining the moment and derailing the entire Emoji way. Looking for help, Gene locates Jailbreak (Anna Faris), a hacker who takes the confused Emoji beyond Textopolis, hunting for a way to fix the mess.
The pair visit other apps, soon joined by Hi-5 (an obnoxious James Corden), another reject desperate for redemption. Pressure is applied to the hunt when word arrives that Alex has scheduled a phone repair, with Emoji extinction now possible, thanks to Gene’s botched performance.
Textopolis. Hollywood has made it a thing, populated by a swarm of different Emojis, each born(?) with a specific expression that defines their existence. There’s Hysterical Laughter, Thumbs Up, and Heart Eyes—even Christmas Tree for the holiday season.
Gene is Meh, and his arc involves his inability to stick to one simple face, discovering that he’s capable of much more than a simple Meh, spooking his kind and resulting in a journey beyond the borders of everything he knows.
Of course, everything he knows involves the Poop Emoji (Patrick Stewart), which is the most popular resident of Textopolis according to director Tony Leondis (Igor), who returns to Poop as much as possible. Sentient fecal matter. That’s pretty much the highlight here. The plot is routine as can be, riffing on recent Disney efforts, such as Wreck-It Ralph and Inside Out, both infinitely superior pictures.
Sony wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass them by, keeping brand names prominent as Gene and Jailbreak navigate the Just Dance game and music streaming service, Spotify. Perhaps this could be justified as authenticity, but it’s most likely the pursuit of quick cash, making the film more about commercial opportunities than comedy, though the feature doesn’t make any clear moves towards a genuine laugh either. Unless you find the existence of Poop hilarious. More power to you.
The Emoji Movie isn’t interested in a challenge, providing a bare minimum of effort, dressed up in vibrant colors and pop hits. It’s a one-note joke that’s not funny, with its highest achievement the animation of walking, talking, and defecating(!) Poop.