Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Film Review: The Emoji Movie

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable 
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

The main problem with this movie is that it seems to be trying to capture the zeitgeist of a culture that will be obsolete in a few years.

The Emoji Movie is a film in the vein of Toy Story and Inside/Out, which asks the question: what if emojis were sentient and lived in their own little world.  This is enough fodder for a small sketch on SNL or an episode of South Park.  But even that would be pushing it.

The plot of this movie revolves around the "Meh" emoji named Gene (TJ Miller).  In this world, all of the emojis must feel only the emotion they belong to, but Gene wants more.   Alex (Jake T. Austin), the owner of the phone in which Gene lives tries to send a text to the girl he likes.  But Gene does not show the proper "Meh" emotion and Alex decides to get his phone wiped, which will destroy all of the emojis in his world.  Gene decides to leave his city to get his code written so he can be whatever kind of emoji he wants.  To do this he will get the help of rebel Jailbreak (Anna Faris) and the now-ignored Hi-5 (James Corden).

This is not the worst movie in the world, but I could feel the jokes age as I watched them.  The movie is fileld with reference to Candy Crush, Instagram, and a many other app brands that are here today and gone tomorrow.  22 years later and all of the reference in the original Toy Story still feel fresh.  22 months from now and I think half of the references in The Emoji Movie will be out of date.

I tend to enjoy the idea of hidden worlds around us and there are some times when the movie makes its ridiculous premise a bit charming.  But there are so many problems with the internal logic of the world that suspension of disbelief becomes increasingly difficult.  This is especially true because I really didn't care about any of the characters.

Partly this is because I cannot stand TJ Miller.  I have never seen the appeal and he brings no charisma to the role.  Jailbreak is wet blanket on every bit of attempted wonder.  And though Corden does his best to be funny.  He is not given much.  There were a few jokes that made me laugh, but the best compliment I can give this movie is that it was as excruciating as it could be.

On top of this, there are moments that are too scary for little kids.  different programs are "killed" and it is done with humor, but that doesn't undo the horror that this could be felt by small children.  There is a way to do scary things so that kids can emotionally process, like in Inside/Out.  But the filmmakers do not have the wit or compassion to do it.

And there is one joke that really bothered me.  Hi-5 says that there is something on Alex's phone that is hidden from his parents.  Gene asks what a teenage boy could possibly want to hid from his parents on his phone, to which Hi-5 gives an exacerbated look.  The movie thinks its being very clever at putting in a dirty joke without kids noticing.  But I found it disgusting.  Look, I am not a prude when it comes to vulgarity in a movie.  But this is a kid's movie and Alex is a very young teenager.  This one gag epitomizes why this movie fails whereas many of PIXAR's movies succeed:

The Emoji Movie is a cynical piece of nihilism wrapped in a children's movie.


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