I can’t really say that Sony Pictures Animation’s ‘The Emoji Movie’ is the worst thing I’ve seen all year; Its characters are as vibrant and colorful as the world they inhabit. This doesn’t excuse the fact that this cheap attempt at comedy is one of the most cringe-worthy, and annoying animated films I have come across. Yes, this is a children’s movie. No, that doesn’t mean I have to go easy on it. When you have a movie where two “Meh” emojis (Voiced by Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge) say how they’re feeling in a tiresome manner, or the villain becoming an extremely happy emoji who gushes her words as if she is talking to a baby emoji (Maya Rudolph, you are much better than this!), of course I am going to be annoyed at the least! I expected ‘The Emoji Movie’ to have some potential in its gags, however, the only funniest jokes seem to come from Poop (Voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart, no joke.) and a hand emoji named Hi-5 (Voiced by James Corden).
I don’t actually mind that its plot seems to have ripped-off ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ (A far superior animated film), but I really don’t need to know how to play ‘Candy Crush’ or ‘Just Dance’ (Both apps serve as a plot element for our heroes), I just want to have fun and watch the action unfold. ‘The Emoji Movie’ takes place in the city of Textopolis (The messaging app, to be exact), which happens to be in the phone of a high school freshman named Alex (Voiced by Jake T. Austin), who wants to send the right emoji to his crush (Voiced by Tati Gabrielle), because as the movie teaches us, communication is lame. In Textopolis lies a building where all the emojis go to be used. They enter their assigned cubes and wait for their cue to be scanned. As you all know, each emoji serves a purpose and sticks to only one expression, except for one; Gene (Voiced by T.J. Miller) who doesn’t seem to have just one emotion; He is an expressive emoji who can be in any mood he wants. This causes him to be branded a “malfunction” by the head of Textopolis named Smiler, (Rudolph) who orders him to be deleted by her robots.
Now a fugitive, Gene teams up with Hi-5, Alex’s least used emoji who wants to be “a favorite” again, to leave Textopolis in order to find a hacker named Jailbreak (Voiced by Anna Faris, who ended up replacing Ilana Glazer), so Gene can get fixed and become normal, but not without learning a lesson about self-acceptance. (An often used cliché in children’s animation.)
It isn’t just ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ that ‘The Emoji Movie’ “takes inspiration” from. It has elements of the plot of Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’. (another superior animated movie about a secret world unseen by humans, where everything, to us, seems like a part of life.) In all these movies, the characters leave their assigned spots to take a journey. Director/co-writer Tony Leondis cites his love of ‘Toy Story’ as his inspiration for the story. Nonetheless, I still remain cynical and will say that ‘The Emoji Movie’ is more of a disrespect to animated family movies of the past, no matter how satirical or self-aware its premise is.