Nearly all adults everywhere agree the Emoji Movie is a 💩. Currently, the film is enjoying an abysmal 3 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Vadim Rizov of the AV Club gave the film a ‘D’ and called it “Inside Out crossed with a Sony commercial and dunked in toxic ooze.” That was among the more mild criticism.
But this is a kid’s movie and to risk stating the obvious, kid’s movies are not for you or me or Vadim Rizov of the AV Club. They’re made for kids and plenty of films hated by adults are absolutely loved by kids. Boss Baby, for instance, was largely panned by critics but turned out to be a box office success. Kids, it turns out, give zero fucks what critics think. Is the Emoji Movie terrible for adults but great for kids?
The answer is a resounding no. This movie is awful from the titles to the credits. The plot is an incoherent mess. The “jokes” mostly involve lazy wordplay and obvious observations about social media. But most unforgivably, the Emoji Movie is an insult to children. The film rests on the premise that kids are dumb enough to laugh at anything as long as it is said by emoji. It’s a lazy, cynical cash grab that does not deserve 86 minutes of you or your child’s time. Here are the four biggest ways the Emoji Movie fails by insulting the very people it should be aiming to please.
The Plot is Completely Derivative of Other (Very Well-Known) Children’s Movies.
The Emoji Movie explores the world inside your smartphone. The emojis live in Textopolis and their goal in life is to make sure they correctly convey whatever emotion their owner wants to display via text. Gene (voiced by self-proclaimed genius T.J. Miller) is a meh emoji, but he has a secret: he has the ability to express a wide range of emotions. This, of course, causes some problems that are too stupid to get into and soon Gene has to leave Textopolis and try to get to The Cloud with the hope that he can be fixed and finally fit in.
As many reviewers have noted, this movie openly (and poorly) rips off a ton of other movies, most obviously Inside Out. To be fair, movies borrowing from other movies isn’t anything new, but the Emoji Movie is a paint-by-numbers story that does absolutely nothing to surprise or even really entertain its intended audience.
The Children are Bumbling One-Dimensional Heathens.
Alex, the main human, and his friends are vapid, shallow characters with no interest in meaningful engagement with the world or anything resembling personalities. They’ve surrendered all human emotion to the emojis. So vacuous are these screen-addicted youths that, ultimately, even texted words fail them. The emotional high-point (?) of the film is when Alex finally proclaims his affection for a girl in his class. But he doesn’t do it with a moving monologue or even an awkward confession. It’s with an emoji. Because this is The Emoji Movie and that means children are dumb.
The Jokes Aren’t Funny. At all.
Almost all the other transgressions this movie commits could be forgiven if it was funny. Unfortunately, this might be the Emoji Movie’s biggest weakness. It’s not just that its jokes are bad (to be clear, they totally are). The movie simply isn’t interested in making an honest attempt at being funny.
The majority of the movie’s humor comes from the fact that each “emoji” is stuck in their designated personality. The smiley emoji is always happy. The meh emojis are always underwhelmed. Patrick Stewart plays the poop emoji and practically every line out his mouth is a groan-worthy, feces-related pun. This isn’t a joke. This is a set up for a joke. But the punch lines never come.
There’s nothing worse than robbing a movie theater full of children of their joy but there’s a certain ashen silence that descends upon the audience of the Emoji Movie which isn’t so much sadness as it is the vacuum left when joy is sucked out.
The Message Is A Logically Inconsistent Dumpster Fire of Stupidity.
Throughout the movie, Gene is conflicted because he is only allowed to be one expression — meh. However, Gene knows he is capable of expressing more than just one emotion. Buried deep down in the movie could be a poignant message about realizing the inner complexities of people and that you are more than one reductive label. But, no.
At the end of the movie (spoiler warning, I guess…), Gene is the only character who has embraced his individuality. Everyone else goes back to doing their one thing: smiling, waving, etc. Is the message that some people are allowed to change and others have to stay the same? Why doesn’t everyone change? Ultimately, there may be an answer here, or a message embedded, but who the fuck cares? The Emoji Movie isn’t just meh. It’s 💩. And you don’t want to dig into that too much.