Kernel Rating (out of 5): (0.5 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 86 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 7+. This animated movie about emojis and the phone world in which they live has some bathroom humor focused around the poop emoji character, who jokes about not wiping, how much he smells, and other mildly gross-out things; also some gags with a character vomiting up candy and eating it again. There are also a couple of romantic subplots in which characters have crushes on each other and discuss dating.
‘The Emoji Movie’ is the worst of cinema made for children and families—a lazy, barely developed story that relies on audience recognition of phone apps and phone programs for humor instead of actual creativity. It’s not funny, and it’s not fun.
By Roxana Hadadi
Is there a cellphone lobbying group that paid to create “The Emoji Movie”? Or did a venture capitalist firm that supports the apps referenced in the film blackmail someone at Sony Pictures Animation or something? Who is to blame for this travesty pretending to be filmmaking? “The Emoji Movie” is phenomenally terrible, and you should not give it your money.
In the mold of “The Lego Movie,” which focused on a protagonist struggling against the limiting expectations of others, “The Emoji Movie” follows the character of Gene Meh (voiced by T.J. Miller, of “Big Hero 6”), an emoji who lives in the texting app of the smartphone owned by high school freshman Alex (voiced by Jake T. Austin, of “Rio 2”). The emojis in Gene’s phone call their world Textopolis, and in that society, the face emojis like Gene are only supposed to look a certain way: the way they are designed.
If smiling emojis are always smiling and crying emojis are always crying, when Alex chooses to send a particular emoji, he can rely on the fact that they’ll look how they’re supposed to. But Gene just can’t stay “meh.” He feels excitement, happiness, sadness, and anxiety, among other things, and those emotions manifest on his face—causing the other emojis to call him a freak. And when Gene makes the wrong face (closing one eye, sneezing) when Alex chooses to send the “meh” emoji in a text to his crush, he makes an enemy out of Textopolis supervisor and original emoji Smiler (voiced by Maya Rudolph, of “The Angry Birds Movie”). “What you are is a malfunction,” Smiler says through her gleaming teeth, and she sends malware bots to track Gene down and delete him.
The only way to be saved, Gene thinks, is to remove himself from the phone into the cloud, get reprogrammed into being properly “meh” all the time, and then return to Textopolis to take his rightful place among the other emojis. With Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden, of “Trolls”), a former favorite emoji of Alex’s who is desperate to be popular again, Gene leaves Textopolis to find a hacker named Jailbreak (voiced by Anna Faris, of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”), who will help him travel through other apps like Just Dance and Dropbox on their way to the cloud.
“The Emoji Movie” follows the formula of so many children’s movies with its focus on a protagonist who is at first judged and rejected by his peers for an unlikely ability and is then accepted and adored by them, but at least similarly conceived films like “The Lego Movie” have humorous scripts and creative visuals to balance out the familiar storyline. “The Emoji Movie” has neither of those. The majority of its jokes focus on the Poop emoji (voiced, disappointingly, by Patrick Stewart, of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”), with characters either saying things like “You’re so soft, Poop,” or the Poop emoji telling his son not to wipe after going to the bathroom, but they’re more gross than funny.
Nevertheless, those lame poop gags are probably the most intentional part of this movie, which otherwise just places the emoji characters in other apps and has them act out the purpose of those programs. In Just Dance, they dance. In Spotify, they listen to music. In Candy Crush, they play the game. These scenes feel far more like commercials than actual subplots, and they’re just honestly so tedious to watch. How is watching this movie any different from using those same apps on your phone? At least that wouldn’t cost you $15 for a 3D movie ticket.
The only somewhat respectable components of “The Emoji Movie” are its inclusion of diversely shaded emojis and its treatment of a few female characters. Rudolph does a nice job crafting Smiler as a narcissistic, tooth-health-obsessed villain, and although Faris’s Jailbreak unfortunately ends up shoved into romantic-interest territory, her knowledge and her resourcefulness make her feel more three-dimensional than anyone else in the film.
But man, is nearly everything else about “The Emoji Movie” intolerable, from its use of acronyms like NBD and OMG as dialogue to its belief that we want to see a character binge on candy, vomit it up, and then eat it all over again to its reliance on romantic subplots to engage us in the story. “Words aren’t cool,” a friend of Alex’s says to him, but in “The Emoji Movie,” nothing else is cool, either.
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