I was in the minority of people who were actually looking forward to checking out The Emoji Movie in theaters. To me, it seemed like a cute premise with the potential for some technology laughs here and there. I walked into the theater with high hopes. Although I don’t share in the high level of disdain for this film as the majority of other critics, this one sadly missed the mark. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s a missed opportunity and a slight lack of voice talent. Furthermore, its message is very confusing, and its ending falls about ten yards short of making any sense.
Gene (T.J. Miller) is a “meh” emoji in the world of Textopolis, a world that lives inside a middle school boy’s cell phone where all emojis live. Gene is a bit special, because where all the other emojis have just one expression, Gene has several. He recruits the help of the washed out emoji, Hi-5 (James Corden) and an emoji hacker by the name of Jailbreak (Anna Faris). Together, the trio searches the rest of the apps on the phone to look for a way to break the code and make Gene “normal”.
The story in The Emoji Movie seems like a great idea on paper. You’ve got the clever nature of a living world inside your cell phone. There’s even potential for a good message about “being yourself”. Sadly, this film misses that “it” factor that Disney has been able to capture with movies like “Moana” and “Zootopia”. Furthermore, I’m unsure exactly which message they were trying to give kids. Are they supposed to accept who they are? Are they supposed to be a little bit of everything? Or are they supposed to fight the man? It’s very confusing and unclear exactly what children are supposed to get out of this besides shiny pictures.
The voice acting is just okay here. Miller does just fine, but doesn’t stand out like he does in movies with an R-rating. Corden’s lighthearted cheekiness is welcome, but overbearing at times. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea Anna Faris was in this movie until the credits, which is odd considering she has a very recognizable voice. The highlight performance in The Emoji Movie is sadly a minor character. Steven Wright, who is already known for his dry demeanor, plays Gene’s father, Mel. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect casting for a “meh” character. It fits so well.
The animation is very bright and colorful, but nothing is going to blow your socks off. Much like the voice acting and the story, it’s just marginal by today’s standards. It looks far from terrible, but nothing stands out as particularly memorable or beautiful.
The Emoji movie isn’t nearly as awful as its tomato score would lead you to believe, but it’s one that I wish I had waited for home viewing. It had the potential to be something really clever, but doesn’t deliver on that potential. This feels more like a movie that’s made to keep kids quiet for an hour and a half instead of actually engaging them. Still, the kids in my audience loved what they saw so much that they loudly cheered at the finale. While other movies cater to both child and adult audiences, this one is definitely more the former. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I would have liked parents and adults to share in the humor together.