I expected the worst from The Emoji Movie, and I am sure I wasn't alone. It's an animated film about emojis. Nobody was expecting a masterpiece, even most of the kids who would still go along to see it for easy entertainment. So you can imagine my surprise when I found that it wasn't actually THAT bad. Not that it's anything great, especially when compared to the many other animated ovies we have been spoiled with in recent years, but it's not bad enough for me to fill this review with numerous Patrick Stewarts (who voices a poop emoji - oh dear, Sir Patrick, oh dear, oh dear).
The plot focuses on a "meh" emoji named Gene (T. J. Miller), living with all of the other emojis inside a mobile phone. Gene struggles to maintain the one expression that is supposed to serve him throughout every day of his life. And this causes him to stress out when it comes time for his first day as a working emoji, setting in motion a chain of events that sees Gene go on the run with a Hi-5 emoji (James Corden) to find someone who can help fix the situation before either Gene is deleted or the whole phone is wiped.
Let's be honest here, the biggest problem that The Emoji Movie has is the central concept. It feels quite obviously cynical and like one big dollop of product placement (are emojis commodities? I guess they can be). But we should be used to that by now. We've had five live-action Transformers movies, we've had two G.I. Joe films, and I believe it's well-known that Joel Schumacher was shown a number of new toys that had to feature in Batman & Robin a couple of decades ago. Some movies are great art, some are great fun, quite a few try to entertain us while selling us stuff (be it cool products or the search for a daydream we keep seeing realised up there on the big screen), and some are just complete poop emojis.
I am sure that many people will disagree with me, but The Emoji Movie manages to avoid being a complete pile of poop thanks to a lot of fun visual gags and the nice way the world inside the mobile phone is visualised. Yes, my eyes rolled when I saw some of the other apps (some being more obvious in their prominent placement than others) but the journey taken by Gene, Hi-5, and Jailbreak (Anna Faris, voicing a character who offers to help them reach an app that may fix everything) is worked out well enough, with decent fun to be had in every main section.
Director Tony Leondis, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Siegel and Mike White (John Hoffman also contributing some material), does a decent job, because enough thought was given to the world and the best use of all the characters. A lot of the gags are obvious, but that doesn't mean they aren't fun.
Vocally, Miller is a good fit for the lead, Corden is at his usual level of annoying overexuberance, Faris is solid, and there are great turns from Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Coolidge, and the superb Steven Wright (if ever there was a voice created for a Meh emoji then his is it).
Kids should enjoy it - the story is simple, the visuals are bright, and the characters are nice enough - and adults should find it relatively painless, but I suppose it's best to sum it up by saying that, well, it's not a very good film compared to so many other films . . . but it's also not a film worthy of numerous poop emojis.