I spent the last few days in serious contemplation about writing the entire review of this film in emojis for the sake of clever presentation, but I don’t think it’s worth going through the effort when the film itself isn’t willing to exert much creative legwork. It’s almost impressive really; I walked into the theater with fairly low expectations, yet somehow The Emoji Movie set the bar so low I could no longer grab it without scraping my knuckles on the floor. Where do I even start?
I mean sure, the film is bad, as was generally expected. But what’s even worse is the complete lack of anything noteworthy. The plot is basically Wreck-it-Ralph, but without having the strength of the lead character’s self-inflexion and reassertion of core values. It fails to deliver the whole “you’re different and that’s okay” narrative without any of the emotional buildup or nuance. The set design is boring and uninspired, borrowing faithfully the overall look and feel of a phone background but without channeling it into anything more interesting than just “giant app cubes” and settings that are way too obvious (the inside of Candy Crush is just a world made out of candy; the Firewall is just a wall of digital fire). The characters are overwhelmingly shallow, which is expected of most of the cast since that’s the whole point of an emoji. But when it’s also true of the main characters, the characters whose entire narrative purpose is specifically not to be shallow, it becomes nearly impossible to care about the circumstances around them. All that’s left are the technical aspects of the film, which Sony Pictures Animation has demonstrated before in the form of fluid motion and style via Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, as well as solid color composition with Smurfs: The Lost Village. What’s aggravating is that here they’ve somehow managed to leave all their most powerful assets on the bench. The facial animation of the human characters in this film is incredibly amateur, and the emojis’ facial expressions are seemingly limited to the actual palette of existing emojis, ultimately preventing anything too sincere.
Hell, they couldn’t even do satire correctly. A small handful of moments in this film actually presented some interesting, if snarky commentary: Talking about the general inhumanity of current trends rewarding speed over sincerity, making jabs at the structure of Facebook and how it rewards hordes of Fans over a few actual Friends, and finally presenting the interesting idea that emojis are completely inadequate in expressing one’s real emotions. Yet, for each of these clever insights, there was a complete failure to expose the moment as actual satire, mistakenly passing said moments as genuine. The result now is a film that is not only unremarkable but now potentially damaging without proper context to children, the primary audience. This is literally a film that can only do more harm than good.
Some of you might consider my scathing opinion an endorsement: after all, maybe the film is actually funny because it’s so bad, right? Well, that’s actually part of the problem. “So bad, it’s good” in a film comes from giving a project full earnestness of effort but completely failing to execute properly; we recognize that despite the failure, someone truly tried and actually believed in what they were making. The difference here is that The Emoji Movie is an execution of “hip” over “earnest”, ironically somewhat reflective of its subject matter. The reward comes from making (any) profit, not impact, so by giving this movie money you are actually rewarding them for their lack of effort.
I would describe this movie the same way I describe most individual emojis: one-dimensional, unimpressive, and not an adequate substitute for coherent thought. Nothing here is memorable, clever, or within acceptable execution for a large studio. And without even having the charm or nuance for that “B-movie” label, I honestly can’t recommend it to anyone.
The film is, however, the most expensive commercial ever made for Candy Crush, Just Dance, Facebook, Dropbox, and Spotify, and you can pay for the privilege of seeing it.
Please do not give them money for this- actions speak louder than emojis.