Plot: Gene is an emoji, living inside a smartphone and poised to take his place in the cube, where he can use his expression to help liven up messages. His parents don’t seem to think he is ready for such a leap, but Gene is determined to earn his place, despite some internal doubt. Gene is a “meh” emote, so he is expected to be “meh” all the time, whether he is happy, sad, or actually “meh,” which is the same expectation of all the emojis in the phone. But Gene has other emotions to express, which is an issue when he makes the wrong face in a text and is labeled a malfunction, not to mention the phone could be erased if more issues arise. As some of the other emojis don’t want to risk the erasure, the decision is made to delete Gene, but he plans to escape to the cloud before that happens.
Entertainment Value: This one was much maligned out of the gate, as the mere premise of a movie about emojis seemed to irritate people. In truth, it is no worse than any other mediocre animated feature and like most films of this kind, just aims to get some laughs from a young audience and little else. The movie does reach a little further at times, mostly involving Jailbreak’s struggle to be herself, but by and large, this is a brisk one designed to navigate short attention spans. The story is passable, with a lot of emoji and social media talk, as well as intrusive product placements from Dropbox, Candy Crush, and Instagram. But as other films like Blade Runner 2049 and Get Out are given free passes for excessive product placement, I don’t see why The Emoji Movie shouldn’t be extended the same exception. Especially since the movie takes within a smartphone and using generic apps would be even more awkward. While this movie isn’t any worse than most mediocre animated features, it also never rises above that level and seems content to be a middle of the pack production. I can see why folks wouldn’t appreciate this one, but it is not the abomination some claim. The Emoji Movie is just a rushed, mediocre piece of fluff animation.
The movie was able to grab a good amount of attention for a while after announcing Patrick Stewart would voice the poop emoji, which is humorous casting, though most didn’t react as such. His role is a small one, but hearing his refined voice coming from a pile of shit is quite fun, if you ask me. The main roles are filled by T.J. Miller, James Corden, and Anna Faris, who are all fine, if forgettable. I am not a Corden fan and he really hams up his performance here, so I didn’t love that, but luckily he is just one piece of the ensemble. Miller and Faris were more tolerable for me, but again, this kind of material doesn’t give them much of a chance to shine. A lot of other talented folks have smaller roles, but the smartest, most effective casting in this one had to be Steven Wright, who is the human version of meh. The animation itself is bright and bold, with a lot of kinetic motion and some fun character designs. The world inside the smartphone is built in an inventive fashion, which I think helps the movie. So it might be slight and not memorable, but there’s so much shiny stuff!