Release Date: July 28, 2017
Director: Tony Leondis
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 86 minutes
Sitting in a half-full theatre filled with children and their mothers is probably the best way to get an objective perspective on The Emoji Movie. Not because the children will remind you to laugh at James Cordon’s stupid gags as the Hi-5 emoji or because of giggles resulting from scatological humour; rather, it will inform you that no one is finding this movie funny.
The audience I saw the film with were weak. There were a couple of chuckles from parents when Patrick Stewart’s Poop emoji almost says “oh shit” and during the other parent-aimed risqué jokes. And I can’t blame them. These were the laughs of desperate parents trying to escape the Sartresque hell they had inflicted on themselves for their children. From now on though, I will wear as a badge of honor that I did not laugh once during this tedious, excruciating, pedantic piece of garbage.
Do you even need to know what the film is about? It mixes the computer-world setting of Wreck-It Ralph with the feelings based characters of Inside Out and the boring dude who gets changed by the cool spy girl story of The Lego Movie. The characters have no personality (the irony of this does not escape me) and the dialogue feel like they was generated by an artificial intelligence.
The story (if you can call it that) is held together by a few moments of expository dialogue that try to justify the direction of the plot without explaining how doing the next thing will advance their character objectives. It feels like a committee got together and tried to write the most basic elements of worlds based around different phone apps and then strung them together with scotch tape.
Why is the Just Dance app a death trap for beings inside the phone? Because we need tension. Why do the songs in Spotify connect to every other app in the phone like rivers? Because the plot needs them too. Why doesn’t the owner of the phone do a factory reset on his own instead of making an appointment at the phone shop? I don’t even know.
Most egregiously though is how the film is obviously trying to score points for being “feminist.” The love interest, Jailbreak (Anna Faris), makes a couple of remarks about being stereotyped or discriminated against for being a woman. But instead of engaging with these ideas in any more than a surface way, the film uses Jailbreak as your average manic pixie dream girl who falls in love with our everyman hero because the studio demands a love story.
In a post-21 Jump Street and –Lego Movie world, I think studios have to realize that taking old and weird properties like those only worked because they put great comedic talents behind them (the same comedic talents in those cases). This year we have both Baywatch and The Emoji Movie as examples that banking on notoriety is no path to success; it’s only a path to the Razzies.