Or in the eyes of the public, how to unsuccessfully rip-off Wreck-it Ralph, The Lego Movie and Inside Out. There are no words to describe the hate surrounding The Emoji Movie when the trailer hit the internet like a newly discovered virus. And even after recouping it’s budget, there’s still a large majority of professional critics and online personalities who have had their swing at this. Is anyone seeing a pattern of Sony distributing the most hated movies lately? The Spider-Man Reboot, Pixels, Ghostbusters and now this? Pray for them when the Jumanji sequel arrives. As an animation fan, I wanted to go into with a fresh mind before feeding off of all the negativity that erupted from the volcano of social media. Especially from the one who wears an orange hat, glasses and likes Sony Pictures Animation as much as he likes getting a Root Canal on a weekly basis.
So is it really as bad as the internet is making it out to be or there a bit of a overreaction to this glossy meme?
Gene (TJ Miller) is a meh emoji in the world of Textopolis where everyone’s expected to have one trait. Any face emoji with more than one emotion is considered a glitch, much to the disappointment of Ma and Pa Meh (Jennifer Coolidge and Stephen Wright). After a disastrous day at work, Gene comes close to meeting his maker at the hands of Smiler (Maya Rudolph). Enlisting has-been emoji Hi-5 (James Corden) and hacker, Jailbreak (Anna Farris) they travel the digital world of forced product placement, forced romantic interests, trolls, and ultimately help a human character who has less screen lines than Jackie Chan in all three Kung Fu Panda features.
Let’s get something straight: this IS a horible movie. But to its credit, there’s a tiny bit of light in this vast, dark void. It delivered on the promise that Wreck-it Ralph only glimpsed into by traveling to more worlds even if it was just a giant commercial that could out sponsor Space Jam. And unlike it’s blue cousin, Smurfs: The Lost Village, it knows when to shut up and take a breath because it wasn’t afraid that the target audience will fall asleep. The pop songs were a little less painful because it makes more sense on phone rather than in the middle of a technology free forest. There are a couple times when the humor has a couple chuckles and maybe one laugh-out-loud moment. Finally, TJ Miller and Stephen Wright were adequately cast even when the script gives them very little to work with.
And that’s where the positives come to a car crashing halt if you thought this was gonna be an “In Defense” analysis because everything else is a cancerous tumor that grew and grew with each passing minute. Sony Pictures Animation is a studio that doesn’t push for realistic animation, but the more rubber hose style of the Fleisher Brothers. But even this is way too simplistic compared to their past films. There was more experimenting than just sticking arms and legs on an emoji to look like a Pac-Man rip-off. The colors definitely stand out more whenever they go world jumping, but outside of that the computer animation has not detailed textures, and after a while all the apps just blend together like a pointless rainbow. I’d bet 100 dollars that flash animation could pull off more realism than this at half the cost. Though give the emojis credit for looking more alive than the humans, who might as well be lifeless puppets in personality and development.
Cloned stories can be great if there’s something itself set itself apart from the inspiration. This has as much originality as it has realistic animation: next to none. It’s the same be yourself message that’s as subtle as a hammer on the head multiple times with nothing new to offer except hate able and/or cynical characters that are hypocritical to the message when you think too hard about the world. The animals, food and tools are allowed to have more than one emotion, but the faces aren’t? There should be some sort of Emoji civil war at this point. And why does the hacker conform to her “myth” as a means to help her friends after preaching the movie’s message of non-conformity more than twice? The only thing that’s memorable in this, like a bunch of other Sony movies, is their need to push as much advertisements of their own brands in front of the camera. But this time with the aid of Spotify, Facebook, Youtube, Candy Crush, Just Dance, Dropbox, Twitter and Instagram. You could make a BINGO game out of all the advertisements and get more entertainment out it as well. And the humor never rises above pun after pun after pun. Half of which involve a walking pile of dung played by Patrick Stewart making the same crap (no pun intended) punchline again and again and again. Not only does this plot have an identity crisis on originality, but also on what it wants to teach other than what’s already been seen in better, ORIGINAL stories.
There was definitely some creativity found in The Emoji Movie, which is more than I can say about Smurfs the Lost Village (They’re very much the same in a lot of ways). But that doesn’t excuse it from being another fishbone for the garbage pile of 2017’s worst animated movies. When jumping from generation to generation, there’s always that one movie that combines all the worst traits that can be packaged into a time capsule so we can laugh at it 20 years down the line. The 80’s had cartoons based on toy. The 90’s had attitude no matter where you turned. And the early 2000’s had a rise in emo culture. This is just a collection of the worst trends over the past 10 years boxed up in a very expensive crate. It’s not the end of the world or even cinema. There are still a ton of great choices to choose from this year. Hell, the reviews for this are more entertaining to read and listen to than even half of the tripe onscreen. I’m just kind of annoyed that I wasn’t as ticked off as the rest of the Rotten Tomato community. You really wanna make me mad? Think of something that’s worse than Rob Schneider as a polar bear trying to stop an evil developer from building condos in the freezing, barren, uninhabitable arctic. Then we’ll talk. But whatever you do, don’t throw your money at this, less they make a sequel five years later in a never-ending get rich scam.
Note: The one saving grace was the Hotel Transylvania short, Puppy with had more expressions and more comedic timing in five minutes than an hour and a half feature with faces that ae supposed to have a limitless range of expressions.
Pros: TJ Miller, Stephen Wright, animation timing, world jumping, semi-creative execution, breathes, colorful, Puppy short film
Cons: in-your-face product placement, uninspired copied story, forced romantic interests, hate able characters, forgettable human environment, mixed-up message, mediocre animation, bottom of the barrel toilet humor