The Emoji Movie

emoji-rev The Emoji Movie  (2017)    Columbia/Comedy-Adventure    RT: 86 minutes    Rated PG (rude humor)    Director: Tony Leondis    Screenplay: Eric Siegel, Tony Leonidis and Mike White    Music: Patrick Doyle    Release date: July 28, 2017 (US)    Cast: T.J. Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Patrick Stewart, Christina Aguilera, Sofia Vergara, Rachael Ray, Sean Hayes, Melissa Sturm, Jeffrey Ross, Jake T. Austin, Tati Gabrielle.

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 The biggest laugh I got from The Emoji Movie was the end credit that read “Sir Patrick Stewart as Poop”. OMG, WTH? This guy is a Shakespearean actor. What’s next, “Dame Judi Dench as Yeast Infection”? I’ve been hearing negative things about The Emoji Movie for days. It’s gotten nothing but bad reviews. It’s been compared unfavorably to Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph and Inside Out. I thought about skipping it but decided to go through with it to satisfy my own curiosity. Is it really as bad as they say? I mentally prepared myself for a painful 86 minutes.

emoji Much to my surprise, I didn’t hate it. It’s so bad and dumb and weird, I find myself hard-pressed to be too harsh on it. To be honest, I got more enjoyment out of The Emoji Movie than I did Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3, probably for all the wrong reasons but still. Yes, it’s a shameless plug for various apps- e.g. FaceBook, Instagram, Candy Crush, Just Dance, etc. Unsurprisingly, there’s not a single Angry Bird to be found. I guess since they got their own movie last year, the producers felt it would be overkill. Even so, it’s abundantly clear that most of the movie’s budget comes from the companies whose apps the movie promotes. It’s really more a series of mini-ads than it is a movie.

 The story, set in the bustling digital city of Textopolis (really?), centers on Gene (Miller, Deadpool), an emoji with an identity crisis. As the son of two meh emojis, Mel (comedian Wright) and Mary Meh (Coolidge, Legally Blonde), he’s expected to follow in their footsteps. The problem is that Gene doesn’t always feel meh. He’s able to make more than one facial expression which makes him an outcast among his fellow emojis. It also makes his parents question whether he’s ready to go to work as one of the emoji options on the user’s cell phone, a teenage boy named Alex (Austin, formerly of The Fosters). He likes this girl in his class and decides to respond to her text with an emoji. Upon being chosen, Gene freaks and makes the wrong expression which wrecks the text center. His boss Smiler (Rudolph, Sisters) declares him a “malfunction” and tries to delete him.

 With the help of Hi-5 (Late, Late Show host Corden), another outcast emoji (replaced, just like in real life, by a fist bump), Gene manages to evade Smiler’s bots. His new friend tells him his best option is to leave Textopolis and find a hacker to fix him. They go to a piracy app (represented as a seedy dive bar filled with disreputable types) where they ask hacker emoji Jailbreak (Faris, Mom) for her help. She reluctantly agrees to help them but only if Gene helps her get past the firewall preventing her from reaching the Cloud where she wants to live. The three emojis embark on their journey across Alex’s phone, being pursued by bots the whole time. Time is also a factor as the user, believing his phone to be broken, has an appointment to have it completely erased. This means that everything and everybody will be wiped from existence.

 I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed The Emoji Movie as much as I did. I really tried to resist. It was all in vain. It’s hard to say at what point the movie had me but I can tell you the first thing that made me crack a smile (accompanied by an eye-roll). It was Gene singing “I’ve Gotta Be Meh” while getting ready for his first day of work. It’s a goof on “I’ve Gotta Be Me” from the 1968 Broadway musical Golden Rainbow, a reference that will be entirely lost on the movie’s target audience (they had to put something in to keep the adults interested, no?). I hate to admit it but I chuckled a few times, my laughter being a mix of amusement and derision. However, the fact that I did laugh (and more than once) says something for The Emoji Movie.

 The animation is colorful and vibrant. One of the bits I liked best was when our heroes took a detour into the Just Dance app. Its spunky cyber-hostess Akiko Glitter (pop singer Aguilera) leads them though a number set to Wham’s relentlessly upbeat “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” followed by “Feel This Moment” (by Aguilera and Pitbull). It’s a fun, infectious moment. The Candy Crush scene is also kind of neat. You know what The Emoji Movie is? It’s a movie to watch while stoned. I totally would have watched this in college after first smoking a blunt in my old car. I can imagine how much weirder it would be under the influence.

 The voice talents do a decent job. Rudolph is sufficiently annoying as the always-smiling boss. The smile never wanes, not even when she orders Gene’s deletion. Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara voices a flamenco dancer who lives only to dance the flamenco. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray is “Pam” as in spam minus the s. The monotone-voiced Wright is a perfect choice to voice a meh emoji. Faris is also good as Jailbreak, a punkish hacker who might be harboring a secret. Then there’s Sir Patrick. Many know him as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and/or Professor Charles Xavier. While I don’t think Poop (as in the infamous poop emoji) will ever be regarded as one of his finest roles, it certainly proves he’s a good point. Besides, I half-laughed when he and he son chanted “We’re number two!” as they left a men’s room.

 Similarly, The Emoji Movie will never be considered one of the greatest kid’s movies. It is, however, a memorable one. It’s not memorable for the right reasons. It’s incredibly dumb and the basic plot is unoriginal. The idea of a world populated by anthropomorphic emojis might sound novel but it isn’t all that different from one occupied by anthropomorphic animals (i.e. Zootopia). At the same times, there’s some creativity at work in The Emoji Movie. At least the makers seem to be trying. Director Tony Leondis (Igor) keeps things bright and lively. It’s almost fun actually. It didn’t leave me with a hollow feeling afterwards. No, it was more of a confused feeling. I wasn’t sure what I just saw or if I liked it. All I knew is that it was completely bizarre. Its weirdness is what ultimately saves it. That’s just my opinion, of course. 

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