When news broke that The Emoji Movie was being made, the internet outrage was palpable. Many called it the epitome of just how cold and corporate films have become. But surely it can’t be that bad?
Gene (T.J. Miller) is a “meh” emoji living in Textopolis, but unlike the other emojis Gene can display multiple emotions. Long story short, Gene must journey through various apps to find himself and save the phone from being wiped. Its pretty much your cookie cutter “outcast goes on adventure to find out it’s okay to be different” story in a very similar vein to Wreck-It Ralph or The Lego Movie. Unfortunately, The Emoji Movie lacks any of the heart or charm found in these other films, both of which beautifully payed homage and respect to its source material. Instead, The Emoji Movie relies on cheap references to mobile phone culture and the most obvious, bottom of the barrel gags. The film feels as though it was constructed by faceless marketing men in a conference room, rather than writers with any genuine passion for the subject at hand.
“So forced that it only serves to disrupt the plot”
This can also be said for the characters, who are devoid of any creativity or originality. Gene is your generic protagonist but without any likability. His sidekick Hi-5 (James Corden) is the obligatory overweight comic relief but without the laughs. And then there’s Jailbreak (Anna Farris), the punky hacker emoji who “dont-need-no-man”. She’s almost a carbon copy of The Lego Movie’s Wildstyle but with tacked on feminism. Film, like most sectors of the various entertainment industries, is crying out for strong female roles. But this is so forced that it only serves to disrupt the plot and insult the viewer.
But let’s be honest, naff animated films are a dime a dozen. They’re a relatively cheap and reliable way to make a quick buck. There will always be parents looking to keep their bratty, snot-nosed children quiet for an hour and a half, and bright colours accompanied by the occasional poo joke are a sure-fire way to do just that. But The Emoji Movie’s greed expands further than just the price of admission, they had to push it one step further.
The Emoji Movie isn’t so much a film, as a feature length advertisement. An advertisement that you have to pay to watch! Product placement is nothing new in cinema, any adult with an iota of common sense can spot that Brad Pitt randomly drinking a Pepsi mid-scene is an advert. But to do this in a film aimed at children, and to the level The Emoji Movie does it, is something else entirely. Even Michael Bay, arguably the king of product placement, has the decency to have giant robots punching each other just to draw some of the attention away from the logos and brands laced in his films and let’s be honest, most kids are more interested in the mechanised mayhem going on in the foreground than the energy drink billboard in the background.
The Emoji Movie instead brings these products to the foreground even making them an integral part of the “plot”. Several apps are featured throughout Gene’s quest through the phone, the developers no doubt paying a hefty sum to have them featured, including two separate scenes where they literally just play Candy Crush and Just Dance for five minutes. But the straw that breaks the camel’s back has to be a line spoken whilst hiding from the baddies in cloud storage service Dropbox. It’s something to the effect of “He can’t get in here because he’s illegal malware and this app is secure”. Is that really the level we’re at in terms of marketing? It’s disgusting and deplorable and I urge you to never give this film so much as a penny. Fun side note, Dropbox was actually hacked last year with over 68 million users having their emails and passwords leaked to the internet. But don’t worry, this film just told your impressionable child that it’s safe now.
So yes, The Emoji Movie really is as bad as we all thought it would be, possibly worse. It’s vapid and boring and so clearly manufactured for cash. But the really sad part? At the time of writing this review it’s made almost double its budget at the box office (this doesn’t include the money paid by developers for advertisements). Yes, the industry is in a very sorry state of affairs and The Emoji Movie is the absolute pinnacle of everything wrong with it.