This movie does not need to exist. This movie should not exist.
This is a film that started as a fleeting idea in the hazy brain of some corporate executive that should’ve been forgotten and overridden by whichever new 13-year-old pop star making the rounds on YouTube he wants to invest in.
I have never seen a film try to cater and pander to a certain demographic this desperately in my entire life. It’s essentially trying to do what The Lego Movie did, except that movie was, y’know, good. It essentially did for Legos what Toy Story did for toys and what Wreck-It Ralph did for video games; it had heart, it had humor, it had a damn catchy song. This movie sounds like it got pitched after some middle-aged white man in a boardroom slammed back a few shots of tequila and then said, “You know what the kids would like?”
The Emoji Movie is an amalgamation of all of the worst things that could happen when companies try to make themselves “hip” and relevant to appeal to the little kiddies. (If you think this sounds outlandish, check out http://reddit.com/r/fellowkids. There are more examples of this than you think.) There’s a reason why the only two reactions to the news of this film are extreme criticism and blind optimism, and the teasers for this film that have gone up on YouTube have a number of dislikes that completely dwarfs the number of likes; they know that there are tons of ways to market, and this is not it.
The most hilarious thing about this film is that it was advertised by a character just as unenthusiastic about it as we are, and I don’t blame him one bit. To add insult to injury, the entire video is portrayed like a vertically-filmed iPhone video uploaded to YouTube with those nasty black bars, acting like a tongue-in-cheek middle finger to the audience. Imagine if the whole film was like that.
And just when you think it can’t get any worse, here’s the storyline of the film, in my own words: the film centers around an emoji called Gene who is unique because he can change his expression, but apparently all emojis live in a weird communist agenda where individuality is shunned and conformity is the status quo. Fearing the fact that he may disappoint his family or even be killed (well, deleted) for his distinctiveness, he seeks a code that will make him like everyone else by teaming up with his friends Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden; not surprised he got in on this) and an infamous code breaker emoji called Jailbreak. That..that doesn’t even make sense. There’s not even a jailbreak emoj…whatever.
First of all, Lord knows I couldn’t type that with a straight face. Second of all, this “unique person faces shunning/death and is forced to be normal” story structure sounds like something out of a World War II book. Not only that, but this plot has been used so often in films like these I know exactly where it’s going to go from here. Gene finds out that his individuality should be embraced and not hated, and eventually everyone becomes unique expression-changers, so unique becomes the new normal.
It’s predictable, it’s cringey, it’s tacky, it’s petty, and it’s a complete mess that shouldn’t be made. I will not be surprised if this film bombs hard; I will be one of the people dancing and celebrating among the flames. I will be taken aback if this film manages to pull a reverse Suicide Squad and actually start holding some ground between now and August 2017. It will bring great disappointment to me, however, if people go out to see this film with a “I need to see how bad this is” mindset and give this film money that it doesn’t deserve. If you don’t support a movie, don’t give it your money. Simple as that.
Hey Sony Pictures Animation, thanks for another addition to the endless list of reasons why 2016 sucks (yeah, I know this doesn’t come out until next year, but we heard about it this year, and that’s tragic enough).