The Emoji Movie
Following a fierce bidding war for the rights of this sought-after property in 2015, Sony landed The Emoji Movie, with the exciting promise of delivering a colourful new world for our favourite emoticons. Two years later, however, having sold out to corporate bankrolling and rushed through a lazy story-arc, what’s delivered is as frustratingly deceptive as “free app” costs, and as rudely presumptive as predictive text.
Taking place in the world inside our phones, the story follows Gene (voiced by TJ Miller), who is a “meh” emoji capable of making more faces than the one he is destined to deliver. His diverse expressions are considered to be a malfunction to his peers in Textropolis, whose jobs are to communicate the expressions summoned by their teenage user, Alex (Jake T Austin). Condemned to deletion by their sadistic leader, Smiler (Maya Rudolph), Gene joins forces with a rarely used hand emoji Hi-5 (James Corden) and hacker outcast Jailbreak (Anna Faris), as he goes in search of the Cloud, where he can be reprogrammed to do the job a “meh” emoji is destined to do.
Their adventure takes them outside the walls of Textropolis, and along the way we see them scoffing their faces in the Candy Crush app, sailing on the music “streams” of Spotify, and visiting plush toy pups in the widely popular Chinese messaging app, WeChat. It’s all painfully cliché, and for such a young audience, it’s an infuriating product push. The characters Gene meets are fun additions to the plot, however, despite the stellar voice cast attracted to this film, most of the key talent are sidelined as embarrassing bit parts. This includes pop-star Christina Aguilera as the sassy Just Dance host Akiko Glitter, Sir Patrick Stewart as Poop, whose lines are predictably restricted almost wholly to cringeworthy toilet gags (“I’m just doing my duty!” / “Accidents happen!”), and surprise surprise, Sofia Vergara playing the Latina Flamenca emoji.
Likewise, the themes of the movie are disappointingly transparent, and half-heartedly delivered. The animation tries hard to portray a message of acceptance – of embracing individuality. However, with the journey of self-discovery taking place in a shallow world riddled with internet trolls and narcissistic-enabling apps, it doesn’t quite feel genuine. There’s also an exasperating “girl-power” rhetoric from Anna Farris’s character, Jailbreak, who, despite promoting female independence (“did you know in the first emoji set, females were either princesses or brides?”), compromises on all of her feminist principles in a rushed attempt to wrap up the film and fall in love.
Despite its best efforts The Emoji Movie sadly lacks the adult appeal of similar modern animation, including the fast-paced wit hailed by Zootropolis, and charmingly perceptive originality of Inside Out. Attempting to capture the positive Be Yourself messages and creative worlds of both, it instead feels under-developed and unimaginative for its vast potential.
The Emoji Movie is released nationwide on 4th August, 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Emoji Movie here: