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  • Writer's pictureBen Pivoz

The Emoji Movie

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) walks around Textopolis in The Emoji Movie (Distributed by Columbia Pictures)

The Emoji Movie, an animated family comedy about those little symbols on smart phones that people use to communicate with each other in lieu of words, has been absolutely savaged by film critics upon its release. It almost feels like people have been waiting to make fun of this movie ever since it was announced. I’ve seen a lot of colorful phrases used to insult this film, but the worst thing I thought of while I was watching it was “man, this is really boring.” The Emoji Movie is bad, yes. But it isn’t interesting enough to be pathetically bad.

The story: In Textopolis, the job of an emoji is to stand in a cube and, when chosen by their phone’s owner for a text message, posing in the way assigned to their given symbol. Gene (T.J. Miller, late of HBO’s Silicon Valley) is a “meh” emoji. Unfortunately for him, he is far too emotional and energetic to be that apathetic. On his first day of work, he panics and accidentally makes the wrong face leading to him running off on a quest to eliminate his individuality. Along the way, he teams up with a neglected high-five emoji (The Late Late Show host James Corden) and a mysterious hacker named Jailbreak (Anna Faris of CBS’s Mom).

Gene greets his friend Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden)

The voice cast (also including Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Sofia Vergara, Sean Hayes and Patrick Stewart as a poop emoji) is very talented, but they have been given absolutely nothing to work with. The animation is colorful but lifeless and the story is a lazy retread of various much better animated films. Despite the story’s message of individuality, the characters are entirely one-dimensional. However, if you can get past the pessimistic idea that the film is a $50 million excuse to advertise smartphone apps to children, The Emoji Movie (a mercifully short 78 minutes without the end credits) is largely inoffensive. The message is fine (though remarkably clichéd) and the film is bright and lively. Adults have probably seen this same basic story told before with far more heart and cleverness (aspects of it reminded me of Pixar’s fantastic Inside Out, just inside of a smartphone instead of a person’s emotions), but it might still seem fresh to little kids. Though I did not enjoy it, my 6 and 7 year old nephews thought it was pretty fun.

In short, The Emoji Movie is not good. At all. But it is not brutally bad either. It is not the worst movie of the year, but it may be the least interesting. Sony Pictures Animation (who produced the film) has “adapted” characters who have no personality outside of what they represent and failed to give them any additional character traits. It is a one-joke idea whose one-joke isn’t actually funny. It is not a poorly made film, just an unoriginal and dull one.

But no film is all bad that allows me to forever refer to Patrick Stewart as the voice of Poop.

1 ¾ out of 5

Voice Cast:

T.J. Miller as Gene

James Corden as Hi-5

Anna Faris as Jailbreak

Jennifer Coolidge as Mary Meh

Steven Wright as Mel Meh

Maya Rudolph as Smiler

Patrick Stewart as Poop

Directed by Tony Leondis

Screenplay by Tony Leondis, Eric Siegel and Mike White


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