Genre: CG Animation
Director: Tony Leondis
Cast:T.J. Miller, Anna Faris, Sofía Vergara, Patrick Stewart, James Corden, Ilana Glazer, Jennifer Coolidge, Jake T. Austin, Maya Rudolph, Christina Aguilera
Runtime: 1 hr 32 mins
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Opening Day: 8 August 2017
Synopsis: The Emoji Movie unlocks the never-before-seen secret world inside your smartphone. Hidden within the messaging app is Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favorite emojis live, hoping to be selected by the phone’s user. In this world, each emoji has only one facial expression – except for Gene (T.J. Miller), an exuberant emoji who was born without a filter and is bursting with multiple expressions. Determined to become “normal” like the other emojis, Gene enlists the help of his handy best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and the notorious code breaker emoji Jailbreak (Ilana Glazer). They embark on an epic “app-venture” through the apps on the phone, each its own wild and fun world, to find the Code that will fix Gene. But when a greater danger threatens the phone, the fate of all emojis depends on these three unlikely friends who must save their world before it’s deleted forever.
This columnist is kind. He recognises merit where it is due. Unlike the countless number of merciless reviewers out there, he thinks that The Emoji Movie isn’t the worst flick he has seen.
Anyone movie fan who has been on the worldwide web recently should have seen the bad reviews director Tony Leondis’ work has received. Here are some samples:
“Hear that? It’s the end of the world” – Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post
“A force of insidious evil” – Charles Bramesco, The Guardian
“Makes Angry Birds seem like pure artistic statement’ – Peter Sobczynski, rogerebert.com
It is understandable why critics have been unkind to this 86 minute movie. Cinema goers have been spoilt by great animated films made by Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and other studios (we are not even mentioning the films produced by their counterparts in Europe and Japan). So when a mind numbing work like this comes along, it is a great opportunity for reviewers to display how good they are with words, and how they have the ability to tear a piece of work apart.
But we are not here to do that. To be fair, the story by Leondis and Eric Siegel does have the potential to be a commentary about how humans are too absorbed by the very technology they created. Guess the businessmen decided to dumb down everything to please the younger viewers (bring on the movie tie ins, toys and other frivolous marketing products!)
The movie takes place within the digital universe of a teenage boy’s smartphone, where emojis wait around until they are selected to express their ‘defining’ emotion which is then relayed on the smartphone screen. The protagonist “Meh” is an apathetic emoji who can, gasp – express different emotions. This is, of course, not accepted in a world where only stereotypes live. After a series of mishaps, “Meh” goes on a journey with “Hi 5” and “Jailbreak” to venture through a maze of apps in search of the elusive Firewall. If “Meh” breaks through the wall, he can reprogramme himself, become a normal emoji and truly be a “Meh”.
Leondis, whose main directorial works are on non feature film titles like Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) and Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters, may have missed the mark here. While there are a few chuckle worthy moments (there are plenty of jokes which poke fun of familiar apps like Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Instagram), the majority of the gags feel like a high school student’s attempt at trying to be smart.
Younger viewers should be amused by the bright colours and the non-stop chatter, but one cannot help but wonder how the filmmakers managed to get the star studded cast together. T.J. Miller is “Meh”, James Corden is “Hi 5” and Anna Francis is “Jailbreak”. The somewhat hilarious casting choices are Christina Aguilera as a dancer in the Just Dance app, Sofia Vergara as a flamenco dancer emoji and ahem, Sir Patrick Stewart as a poop emoji.
The laughs wear off after a while, as the movie gradually becomes a tiresome effort from the scriptwriters to meet a feature film runtime.
(While it may not be the worst movie you'll see, it is likely to have you walking out of the theatre feeling “meh”)
Review by John Li