The Emoji Movie Review by Cameron Metrejean

bckstry.org backstory lafayette arts community cameron metrejean reviews the emoji movie
I can only imagine that someone saw that a movie was based off of a cellphone game and decided they wanted to take it to the next level. But after Angry Birds turned out to be a marginally decent film there was still some hope to be had, unfortunately The Emoji Movie is pretty close to what is expected.

Inside teenager, Alex’s, phone lives a whole computerized world where a messenger app is home to hundreds of Emoji’s. Gene is a “Meh Face” emoticon who finally gets his chance to be used in the phone, but he doesn’t quite fit the bill since, unlike everyone else, he has a great range of emotions. He is now in danger of being trashed in fear that his mistake will be seen as a phone malfunction resulting in them all getting erased. He teams up with High Five, a formerly popular emoji who wants to regain his high status, to find Jail Breaker, a female emoji hacker. And just typing that out, this movie sounds ridiculous.

With a technology world and a main character that desires to be more than what he was programmed to be, the movie appears to be of the Wreck-it-Ralph variety. But if done wrong it could end up more like the last product placement atrocity, Foodfight. Thankfully The Emoji Movie is not Foodfight terrible, but avoiding that low bar doesn’t say much.

“There’s a lot wrong with this movie, and I don’t know if there’s an easy way to fix it. There’s just no way to escape the fact that they are blatantly talking about Smart Phones and respective apps. If nothing else, The Lego Movie was based around a product that’s been around for a while now. ”

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Most of the humor is of the pun variety. I’d be lying if I said they were all terrible. Some have their merit, and I laughed at quite a few. And some of the off beat humor is very welcomed. There’s even some clever moments in their world-building like where the most used emojis are allowed into a fancy club. But in other places, these fall short. When they show that the Emojis have an owner I couldn’t help but see it as similar to Riley from Inside Out, but we don’t see enough of Alex to really care about him. And comparing anything in The Emoji Movie to the emotional resonance of feelings in Inside Out is just unfair. Its clear that true human feelings aren’t well understood in this film after a character remarks “I’m glad you’re one of those guys who can express his feelings” after being sent a single emoji text. Seriously, not any actual words. If anything it feeds into people’s fear that kids these days spend too much time on their phones. And it’s not like the movie doesn’t bring up some commentary on other things in modern technology. But whether it’s about having friends vs fans or how the first female emojis were only either princesses or brides it comes off rather clunky.

The Emoji Movie desperately wants to be The Lego Movie, right down to the “guy on the run enlist the help of a tech-savy girl” to the forthright titles that are only one word different. After all, The Lego Movie was about as blatant as a product placement movie gets and yet despite all odds it pulled it off thanks to deeper metaphors and clever writing. The plot of The Emoji Movie isn’t new or original enough to rise above it’s subject matter. Much of it feels recycled from the previously mentioned films. Gene’s problem is understandable but one that has been seen before and better. High Five’s dilemma would seem identifiable but he’s a bit too entitled that it comes off as just selfish. So it doesn’t make much sense when Gene later decides he wants to stall the mission to risk his life saving him. The movie attempts to have a few soft moments between Gene and Jail Breaker but it just can’t escape the hackneyed feeling it produces. But honestly, criticizing the plot almost seems pointless.

There’s a lot wrong with this movie, and I don’t know if there’s an easy way to fix it. There’s just no way to escape the fact that they are blatantly talking about Smart Phones and respective apps. If nothing else, The Lego Movie was based on a product that’s been around for a while now. Emoji’s are still from the past decade so the whole movie just feels like it’s chasing a fad. Maybe if they tried to avoid product placement by using parody names for everything it might not have produced such an “off” feeling, but even then it would have to work very hard in all other aspects to come out on top. And as is, all its positive elements are just ok. It’s got some good clean animation, the occasionally clever visual, and the voice cast is all giving it their best effort, but sadly The Emoji Movie is one where any extra effort just feels like a waste.

It’s hard to say how it would have turned out if the movie had a smarter or self-aware script. This may have just been an idea that couldn’t have worked from the beginning because no matter how good it could have been, it will be dated in 3 years.

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Cameron Metrejean — an actor, writer and film critic who loves to review films through the lens of an actor.


Cameron Metrejean is a local actor, film critic, writer and jack of all trades. You will find him around town in front of the lens and behind.

He is a passionate cinephile with a unique voice forged through industry experience.

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