'The Emoji Movie': What the Critics Are Saying

Early reviews for the film suggest viewers might get more out of the emojis on their smartphones than the ones portrayed on the big screen.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation
'The Emoji Movie'

Reviews for the Tony Leondis-directed Emoji Movie are flooding in, and it's not looking good for the animated comedy. 

The film follows the adventures of Gene (voiced by Silicon Valley alum T.J. Miller), an emoji with the unusual capability of showing infinite emotions, as he seeks to become a "normal" emoji. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore, any comparison to similar animated fare such as The Lego Movie or Inside Out isn't earned here. "Given the right combination of inspiration, intelligence and gifted artists, any dumb thing can be turned into an enjoyable film," he writes. "But Tony Leondis' The Emoji Movie, a very, very dumb thing, comes nowhere near that magic combination. It is fast and colorful enough to attract young kids, but offers nearly nothing to their parents."

DeFore found particular issue with the script, which he calls "weirdly unconvincing." He adds, "The dialogue is even lamer when the pic's three scribes depict the life of Alex, the high-school kid who owns the phone Gene inhabits."

Adds DeFore: "Hell, they can't even come up with fresh-smelling one-liners about the movie's resident poop icon."

While the film is "not always imaginative or digestible," younger viewers should still be amused, writes Defore. "Even so, few adults in the theater will have a hard time maintaining the flatline, unimpressed expression Gene has such difficulty with," he concludes.

Calling the film "a severely debased Inside Out that takes place inside of a smartphone," A.V. Club's Vadim Rizov writes, "The 'plot' is really an excuse to hop from one app to another; there are stops in the lands of Candy Crush, WeChat, Just Dance, Instagram, Spotify and (for the kids!) Dropbox."

According to Rizov, The Emoji Movie is "an even weaker starting point than Sony Animation’s recent The Angry Birds Movie" and ultimately, "There was probably never going to be a version of this film that would prove even remotely plausible as a movie someone felt passionately about making for artistic reasons."

"For a long time, Hollywood has been propagating the idea that the panderingly, trendily idiotic can be made to seem less so, by polishing it up with bright shiny gloss and enlisting engaging talented performers and writers," Glenn Kenny of The New York Times explains. He adds, "I can’t be entirely certain of this, but I would say The Emoji Movie takes this notion to the outer limits of credibility."

Emily Yoshida of Vulture also pulled no punches, calling the film "one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen, much less one ostensibly made for children." Yoshida also found issue with the overt product placement in the film, writing, "Yes, the actual IP of The Emoji Movie has nothing to do with the emojis themselves, and everything to do with the apps that have prime placement in the Google AdWords–grade narrative."

Forbes' Scott MendeIson was slightly kinder in his review, saying, "I’d be lying if I argued that The Emoji Movie is unheard-of cinematic abomination. It’s visually spry, occasionally clever and relatively harmless. Yet it feels afraid of going where it wants to go."

Mendelson points out the pic's story acts as "an on-the-nose parable for young gay kids struggling within the closet in a world that will almost certainly cut them down if they slip up or say or do the wrong thing." However, eventually the film "loses its nerve" when it veers into "a prototypical road movie," and Mendelson concludes, "Putting aside its value as subtextual fiction, The Emoji Movie is surface-level entertaining."

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