Lazy, pointless, desperate
Across the world, amateur screenwriters pay exorbitant sums to attend festivals and pitch to disinterested studio executives ideas they have been crafting for years. After roundly dismissing all that comes their way some of these same executives will later huddle in a room and convince themselves that a film about annoying, overused cartoon faces found on your phone is worth making.
Lead-up to kids animation The Emoji Movie was rough. The marketing team released an image of the Smiler character in garb alluding to The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian future in which a brutal theocracy forces women into sex slavery.
Before that was TJ Miller at an atrocious unveiling at the Cannes film festival failing to recognize the main character he voiced for.
The Emoji Movie as an insult to cinema begins early, putting a sunglasses emoji on the Columbia torchbearer. From there the audience is introduced to Textopolis, where Emojis who can only ever express one emotion live inside a phone. Gene (TJ Miller) is supposed to be a Meh emoji but struggles to contain his emotions. This leads to a disaster when the wrong emoji is texted out, and Gene must go on a mission to find a hacker to restore his one facial expression. There are also subplots involving Gene’s emotionless parents searching for him, and the phone’s owner fancying a classmate.
Gene is accompanied on his quest by comic relief Hi-5 (voiced by professional sycophant James Corden) and love interest Jailbreak (Anna Faris). Gene finds that uniqueness is something to be celebrated after all. The laziness of the plot is not helped by journeys into Candy Crush and Dropbox, or attempts to equate emojis with hieroglyphs.
What is vaguely irritating in the real world is relentlessly celebrated here. In the words of one character glued to his phone ‘words aren’t cool’. The Emoji Pop and riding a boat on ‘streaming’ service Spotify are. The experience is akin to scrolling your News Feed for 86 minutes wondering where it all went wrong.
There is also a scene to rival Lynch in its weirdness. Poop (Patrick Stewart putting in a morning’s voice-over work) exits a toilet stall accompanied by his ten-year-old son. How a shit was able to conceive is never confronted in the film. Poop makes a joke about him and his child not needing to wash their hands, presumably because they are already living, breathing shits. It also presumes that while in the stall one or both of the shits themselves took a shit.
It may be early to call this the lowest Hollywood cinema can go. Sony Pictures, responsible for this catastrophe, has their takes on Peter Rabbit and a live-action Barbie movie due for release in 2018.