Director: Tony Leondis Starring: T.J. Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris Running Time: 86 minutes
In Céline Sciamma’s wonderful film Girlhood, there is a scene where a group of young girls, cosied up in a hotel room in the city which they paid for with ill-gotten money, lip-sync along to Rihanna’s “Diamonds”. Hidden away, briefly, from the world and everything that it sees them as and sees that they will be, they’re free to just enjoy themselves, their joy pumping powerfully through the screen as they sing along, a literal “vision of ecstasy”. I bring this up because The Emoji Movie also uses Diamonds. The Hi-5 Emoji, Gene the Meh Emoji and Jailbreak (who is secretly the Princess Emoji, apologies for the spoiler) read a deleted e-mail draft from the boy whose phone they live in to the girl that he likes, in which he quotes the song’s lyrics and tells her “I just think you’re so cool”. It was unclear if this embarrassing e-mail was supposed to be a joke or sincere, or it would have been if it hadn’t been obvious for some time by that point that there is no sincerity to be found here. The scene in Girlhood is genuine, vibrant and current in exactly all the ways that the scene in The Emoji Movie isn’t. Watch that instead. Watch anything instead. Maybe take your kids to the library. This film wouldn’t agree, it’s stance on words being that they are ‘lame’ and though everything you need to know about reviewing The Emoji Movie can be summed up with 💩, for thoroughness’ sake let’s proceed with the out-dated concept of words regardless.
‘Words are lame, emojis are cool’ is at least a message that is somewhat unique, which makes it stand out from the re-heated children’s morals of helping your friends and being yourself which provide the brittle skeleton that holds up the story of The Emoji Movie. Expecting any kind of originality from something so blatantly consumerist is probably a losing game to begin with, but Gene the Meh Emoji’s journey to accept himself and find his place in Textopolis is a whole new level of derivative, like director Tony Leondis asked his grandmother for the screenplays to Toy Story, The Lego Movie, Wreck-It Ralph and Inside Out for Christmas and was crushed on December 25th to just receive this instead. “That is the you wanted, isn’t it?”, she might ask. No Nana Leondis, you poor old dear, nobody could ask for this. Nobody could ask for the story of Gene (T.J. Miller), the emoji who just doesn’t fit in because he feels too many emotions to be ‘meh’ all the time, unlike his parents, whose constantly bored voices quickly grate no matter how relatable they are and whose marital problems make up a subplot that is as entertaining as it is necessary. Gene screws up on his first day on the job of making a face in a text message and is labelled a malfunction to be deleted. In his quest to become normal that will inevitably end with him just being himself, Gene acquires an incredibly irritating sidekick in Hi-5 (James Corden) and a Strong Female Character in the hacker Jailbreak (Anna Faris). They journey to the Cloud via the various apps on the phone, with appearances from the magical lands of Candy Crush, WeChat, Youtube, Just Dance, Instagram, Spotify, and of course Dropbox, the young people’s favourite. In the hour of need when all hope seems lost, the Twitter logo flies in to save the day, like the eagles in Return of the King but with more brand integration.
It’s easy to forgive something like The Lego Movie for it’s obvious existence to sell Lego because the film itself was very funny, but the humour of The Emoji Movie is almost entirely made of the worst and probably first puns that the writers could come up with. The mere presence of the Poop Emoji and him being voiced by Patrick Stewart is presumed to be funny enough on it’s own, while James Corden manages to mug even when his mug cannot be seen as he goes through Sidekick Starter Kit material, screeching and being wacky and making references to Michael Jackson, who has now been dead longer than many of the film’s target audience have been alive. Lucky Michael one thinks, every time one of these insufferable walking heads and hands opens their mouths and embarrassing attempts at millenial speech’ like “slay” or “omg” or “oh snap” comes spilling out. You can practically see the memos coming from Sony executives and you don’t even have to wait for them to be leaked this time.
If it were remotely possible that Leondis’ claims that this is a “personal” story were true, than The Emoji Movie would only be very, very stupid. But this is not a story, this is content, and the you-damn-kids-and-your-phones disdain doesn’t so much drip as spew, barely trying and failing to find a Pixar-esque meaningful connection between people and the emojis they send in texts. Adults who bring their kids along to this overly bright, overly loud, overly long, cynical waste of time will be engaged only by the long list of questions they’ll have about the nonsensical Emoji Movie world. The kids will probably be more entertained by their phones.(1 / 5)
The Emoji Movie is in Irish cinemas from August 4.