Aug-7-2017

Reel Snippet – The Emoji Movie

Synopsis: Please bear with me. You are about to read the stupidest thing ever written.

In the city of Textopolis within a young man’s smartphone, a “meh” emoji named Gene (T.J. Miller) wants to work in the texting cube with the other emojis. However, his constantly changing expression causes a mixup during a text on his first day and therefore the head of the department named Smiley (Maya Rudolph) deems him a malfunction that must be deleted lest the phone gets reprogrammed, thus deleting all of them. So Gene escapes from Textopolis with a now-forgotten emoji named Hi-5 (James Corden) to find a hacker emoji named Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to help reprogram him to be what he was meant to be. So the journey to the Cloud begins as they brave strange and imposing apps, avoid killer robots and Internet trolls, and even find love and a sense of purpose along the way.

Review: The Emoji Movie reminds me of Dawn of the Dead, specifically the line, “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.” I’m forced to believe that time is now for one of two reasons. Number one: the denizens of Hell have bubbled up into Hollywood and were responsible for every aspect of this movie. Reason the second: this is the most rotten and decayed zombie of a movie that I have ever had the misfortune of seeing, stitched together from the discarded pieces of Wreck-It Ralph, The LEGO Movie, and Inside Out.

Let’s start with the plot. It is the most bland and banal “find happiness in being yourself” story to come out this year, maybe even this decade. Every story element you just thought of after reading that sentence is in this movie, which could be forgiven if the characters and setting were engaging. No such luck. The world of the phone isn’t just vapid and shallow, it’s kind of horrifying when you stop and think about it. Textopolis is a society that enforces conformity and either shuns those who fall out of favor or deletes those who are different or more than their purpose. Yeah, I know, we’re supposed to want our heroes to change the society for the better, but it’s so cookie cutter and unlikable that I’d rather leave it forever than see it come around.

Oh, and the characters are flat too, with Hi-5’s sole purpose being to make cringeworthy jokes and make us wish he’d get axed off. Jailbreak adds insult to injury by throwing in some bluntly crowbarred-in feminist sentiments and then being totally incompetent that [SPOILERS] she needs a man to push the robot-destroying button for her. [SPOILER OVER] While we’re on the subject of the characters, what a massive waste of talent. Apart from the people mentioned in the synopsis, this movie has Steven Wright, Jennifer Coolidge, Sean Hayes, Rachel Ray, and SofĂ­a Vergara to name a few, all of whom are absolutely wasted. But by far, the biggest waste of talent (emphasis on waste) is Sir Patrick Stewart as, no joke, the Poop emoji. They took a Shakespearean actor with countless experience under his belt and gave him nothing but literally crappy puns to work with. Oh, and there’s a random Star Trek joke in there to remind us that he was Captain Picard, because when you have zero aspirations, the low hanging fruit is all you can reach.

I will grant that this movie did have one beautiful part: when one of the characters steps into the phone owner’s trip to Paris via the Instagram app, it’s truly magical as if they’re entering a whole new world. But the effect is fleeting, a few seconds at best, and the end result is as if a sliver of Lord of the Rings was spliced into a Transformers movie. But oh, that leads to our next big problem: the in-your-face product placement. As we journey through the phone with our characters, we get a front row display of all the great apps you can buy or subscribe to like Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, Dropbox, and Just Dance. The end result is the movie becoming a bigger cash grab than the Black Eyed Peas’ Just Dance game, the Amazing Spider-Man movies, and the Watchmen prequels put together.

The astounding thing is that the movie decides to take shots at some of them. One scene was a blunt commentary about how Facebook can be shallow, but all I came away thinking was, “Yeah, but at least they didn’t make The Emoji Movie.” I wouldn’t mind so much if the world details were accurate or true to life, but I watched this movie with two computer scientists and I lost count of the times I heard them say, “that’s not how that works!” Come on, Sony, you’re a tech company. You have to know better!

Here’s a laundry list of other problems I had with the movie: the fact that most of the jokes were lame puns or references, the occasional inappropriate jokes and extreme darkness that does not fit at all with the setting, or the fact that all of the human characters seem utterly shallow, addicted to their phones in life and even during class time, and how the movie doesn’t seem to have the slightest problem with this. I’ll concede that some ideas might have worked in better hands, but what we got was a dead sludge that only counts as a movie because we were forced to pay admission price. Even though it was only about ninety minutes, it felt like ninety years. It’s like the Vietnam of movie experiences, leaving you dry and hollow and destined to haunt your nightmares when you least expect it. Your kids deserve so much better because, unlike my phone’s large cache of emojis, there’s no heart to be found.

Fun Tidbit: The movie features a Christina Aguilera song. Christina Aguilera is the voice of the announcer for the Just Dance app in this movie. Digging any further would require more effort than this movie turned out.


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