Review written by: Josh Kristianto, Film Frenzy Contributing Writer.
In 2017, Tony Leondis released The Emoji Movie. Starring T.J. Miller, James Corden, Patrick Stewart, Maya Rudolph, Anna Faris, Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Wright, and Sofía Vergara, the film grossed $217 million at the box office.
Gene, a budding “meh” emoji, is struggling to keep himself from expressing other emotions, a big deal if he’s going to serve on the job he’s destined for. After a disastrous first-time performance, Gene is labeled a malfunction and goes on the run to escape deletion. Struggling to figure out how to fix himself, he runs into a band of other outcasts who have their own dreams. With a little help from his friends, Gene goes on an adventure to discover who he is truly meant to be.
Audiences of The Emoji Movie probably didn’t expect anything more from the film than a few chuckles, a lot of emoji-related puns, and a basic moral to the story. They certainly shouldn’t expect anything more. The film collapses under its blasé storyline and overused comedy tropes, making for an unsophisticated plot with a predictable ending. While the voice performances seemed strong enough, neither they nor some of the striking visuals were able to give the film any long-term value.
Visually, this film was charming and colorful. It was very interesting to see apps people tend to use day to day from the viewpoint of digital inhabitants in our phones. The CGI was advanced enough to relay the fact that the whole story is happening in an advanced smartphone. The film retains a cartoonish atmosphere and look, yet containing nothing really more impressive. A trip onto the Instagram app provided for the film’s most visually impressive scene as the parents of Gene reunite in a 3D still photo. Of course, the stars of the film, the emojis themselves, were nicely designed to look lifelike, complete with arms, legs, and mouths in some cases.
If the film was extraordinarily funny, it would probably be because the viewer is a small child. For the adults, it might only be moderately humorous at best and grossly repetitive at worst. The emoji puns might be funny at first. However, they soon become an unmemorable part of the story, almost seeming obligatory. There are also funny, incisive ways to satirize today’s superficial and impersonal communication norms. Sadly, this movie took no time to address those issues. The character Hi-5 did serve as a genuinely funny character in the film. Corden’s voice acting provided the silliness and free spirited feel to the character.
As for the movie’s plot, it all seemed very basic. Gene wants to fit in and goes on a journey to fix himself, only to discover who he is now is who he should be. Here, the storyline seemed entirely predictable and therefore unengaging. It seemed like the writers of the film borrowed from a familiar plot sequence and simply “emojified” everything. Aside from Hi-5 and Gene, all the other characters were, to borrow from the film, “meh.” The romance between Gene and Jailbreak seemed rushed and too easy, unable to create enough emotional connection with the audience. All this led to an uninspiring ending where everyone wins and lives happily ever after.
Additionally, Smiler is played up as a depraved monster despite having motivations revolving around preventing the city’s death. She is not particularly power hungry either as she allows some compromises until rejected by the film’s heroes. Due to the acknowledgement within the film of her perspective, coupled with Gene’s basicness, it’s difficult to see her as a villain.
The moral of the story is meaningful. Being yourself is the best policy even if others expect you to act a certain way. Gene shows doing so is the only way to be truly happy with yourself. This is all good and well. Nonetheless, perhaps the film could have focused on a different theme instead of the one it did, if only to be more original and unpredictable. The “be yourself” lesson has been done too many times to have any impact on modern audiences.
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Bold indicates reception of award/recognition
Black Reel Awards
- Outstanding Voice Performance (Maya Rudolph for playing “Smiler”)
Golden Schmoes Awards
- Worst Movie of the Year
International Film Music Critics Awards
- Best Original Score for an Animated Feature Film
Kids’ Choice Awards, USA Blimp Awards
- Favorite Animated Movie
- Worst Picture
- Worst Director
- Worst Screen Combo (Any Two Obnoxious Emojis)
- Worst Screenplay