Expressively Awful


Anders Umholz, Staff Writer

Two months after the release of Sony Pictures Animation’s The Emoji Movie, it’s time we take a close look at what brought the film failure with critics and success with the wallets of the American public. Spoilers ahead!

We walked into the theater, a few old friends and I, expecting at least a few families, or maybe a woman bringing her baby for an hour or two of cheap daycare, but were greeted instead by empty seats. That’s when we knew we made a mistake. But not wanting to admit that we just wasted $8, we sat in the front row, and endured the whole hour and a half anyways. The lights dimmed, the tape started rolling, and my romantic evening with The Emoji Movie commenced. The Emoji Movie follows Gene, a so-called “meh” emoji, and his path to self discovery in the phone of a boy named Alex (Incidentally, “meh” doesn’t make for a very interesting protagonist). It’s Gene’s first day on the job as an emoji, but as we find out early on, he can’t make the one face he’s supposed to, instead expressing all other emotions simultaneously. Long story short, Gene fails to make the right face when Alex selects him, and is kicked out of emoji-land. Now accompanied by fellow outcasts High-five and Jailbreak, he begins his journey to “hack” himself and become normal again, with a healthy dose of painfully cringe-inducing advertisements along the way. The plot is beyond generic; overused, uninspired filler that serves purely to stitch together the drug-fueled 90-minute nightmare that is this movie. If you’ve seen Wreck it Ralph or Inside Out, both infinitely better in every way, you’ve already seen The Emoji Movie.

Now that we’ve briefly discussed the story, let’s take a moment to talk about the product placement. As our techy trio bumbles around the phone, they eventually end up in the Candy Crush app. For the better part of five minutes, the movie forced an explanation of the how the game is played down my throat, ending with Gene’s gruesome death. Except he didn’t die. Because it was a dream? This is a cheap cop-out that’s often used to shock the audience without actually committing to anything outside of the standard narrative arc. So Gene doesn’t die, and instead becomes a piece of candy, I guess? But that’s not the only advertisement in this movie, not even close. We also get to see ads for: YouTube, Soundcloud, Just Dance, Facebook, Dropbox, Crackle, Snapchat, Twitch, Whatsapp, Spotify, and countless others. All this only adds to the mountain of evidence showing that this is not a passion project for Sony Pictures Animation, it’s just a cheap, easy cash grab. With a $50,000,000 budget, (very low for animated movies) The Emoji Movie grossed a whopping $160,000,000, despite record-low ratings, and that’s not even taking into account what the studio was paid for the rampant product placement.

As for animation and art direction, I was pleasantly surprised. The movie has a colorful, bright style that fits the world beautifully. But that’s it. There’s nothing else in this movie that was acceptable. It was unbelievably horrific to endure.

The bottom line: don’t waste your money like I did, and certainly don’t support the makers of this film. Spend that $8 on a pizza or something, and if you absolutely must see it, wait a few months for it to show up in the bargain bin at Walmart.