By: Clayton Lewis
We live in a world in which movie franchise sequels, reboots, and spin-offs have become commonplace. No longer do Hollywood executives enjoy taking risks on screenplays that demonstrate original stories and ideas, as these films hold no guarantee to success; rather, these producers fund films with source material that they already know to have a large, dedicated fanbase. This virtually guarantees them success at the box office, granting them a hefty pocket of cash before their newest film is even rolled out of production. This tactic of producing only franchises that can be considered “safe” is what has led film down the path of consistent franchise sequels and reboots of such pop culture icons as The Ghostbusters and Star Wars, which, from the standpoint of functioning as a story, ultimately fail. The oversaturation of the market with these types of films have made it all the more difficult for original screenplays and films to get their feet off of the ground. Enter The Emoji Movie. Though The Emoji Movie can technically be referred to as an original film, it too suffers from the same malintent as the many reboots and sequels that flood the market today; just taking one hard look at The Emoji Movie would reveal to almost anyone that The Emoji Movie was just another of a long list of bad ideas thought up by out-of-the-loop businessmen in a meeting, aimed at profiting off of young children who don’t know any better.
In July of 2015, it was announced that Sony Pictures Animation had won production rights over The Emoji Movie. Sony Pictures Animation themselves should give the audience a certain level of doubt surrounding the quality of The Emoji Movie, this doubt being primarily based around Sony Pictures Animation’s filmography which contains the likes of Open Season and The Smurfs trilogy, none of which managed over a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes or higher than a score of 6.2 on IMDb. To make matters worse, the director chosen to direct The Emoji Movie had little to no experience directing and almost an equally mixed track record as the studio he was working with. Tony Leondis is known for having co-directed Lilo and Stitch 2, and solo-directed the 2008 animated film Igor, with The Emoji Movie being the third film in his filmography and the first of which he had a part in writing. It should be noted that none of Leondis’ films have achieved higher than a score of 6.0 on IMDb. Based on the circumstances surrounding the production of The Emoji Movie, it almost seems as if it was doomed to fail; I mean, how couldn’t it be with a concept as stupid as exploring the daily life of an emoji?
The Emoji Movie is extremely flawed. After having only seen the film once it’s fairly easy to pick apart The Emoji Movie and the many flaws that it possesses. The first, and possibly most fatal, flaw of The Emoji Movie is the fact that none of its characters are even somewhat likeable; this one issue ensures that this already dreadful film will be even harder to watch. The film’s main protagonist, Gene, much like his two companions, is a very obvious copy paste of characters like Wreck-It Ralph; the two share in their depreciation of the way that their society forces them to act in ways that do not accurately display how they feel. Hi-5, Gene’s closest friend, has also fallen victim to the same development process. Hi-5 serves as the comic relief to the film in most instances, unfortunately Hi-5 is completely unfunny to anyone who is over the age of ten. He is ultimately a hinderance to the progress of the plot, he proves to be utterly useless in all but a few very specific situations. Gene’s lady friend, Jailbreak, while actually contributing to the progression of the film’s story, still manages to come off as utterly unlikable; Jailbreak is The Emoji Movie’s attempt to appeal to an independent female audience, and it is genuinely awful. It’s made very clear early on in the film that Jailbreak is an independent and she don’t need no man. Over the course of the film it’s made fairly clear that Gene and Jailbreak have unspoken feelings for one another, and once Gene gets the guts to confess his feelings for Jailbreak she rejects his advances; regardless of all the development their relationship had prior. This makes no sense! But according to Tony Leondis all characters must be one dimensional and stick to their one given character trait, this scene is made even more odd when Jailbreak is guilt tripped into returning to Textopolis to save Gene in the end of the film. When we’re first introduced to Jailbreak it’s made clear that her only motivation to help Gene and Hi-5 is that they have to leave the smartphone in order to do so, leaving the phone being Jailbreak’s dream; so when she is essentially forced to forget her dream to help someone else, it results in a moment which causes all of us to scratch our heads and question why she would do such a thing. This entire sequence of events is made even idiotic when you realize that the message of The Emoji Movie is to be yourself and do what you want no matter what anybody tells you, so this entire scene goes against the message of the film.
Beyond the issue of poor character design and development, The Emoji Movie is the victim of a poorly written plot. I guarantee that if you’ve seen the Disney animated film Wreck-It Ralph you wouldn’t even have to see The Emoji Movie to tell its story. The Emoji Movie also suffers from a plethora of product placement, almost every app Gene and co. visit is an actual, apart from of course the messenger app; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, YouTube, and Candy Crush to name a few. The humor of The Emoji Movie is extremely predictable, the poop emoji only makes poop jokes, and Gene’s parents both being meh emojis only speak in monotone; all the jokes are extremely repetitive and the film suffers as a result. Overall I’d have to give The Emoji Movie two poop emojis out of ten.