Emoji more ‘meh’ than ran­cid rub­bish

THE EMOJI MOVIE (PG, 86 MINS), DI­RECTED BY TONY LEONDIS,

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I know it helps to walk into a screen­ing with your ex­pec­ta­tions for the film al­ready – lit­er­ally – in the toi­let.

I am aware of the pile-on my Amer­i­can comrades in re­view­ing have in­dulged in. ‘‘Worst film you’ll see this year’’ seems to be the con­sen­sus, with a side-or­der of sar­cas­tic digs at the nerve of any­one who thought the contents of a smart­phone could make a vi­able mise-en-scene for a movie aimed at a pre-teen au­di­ence. Well, pull your head out of the lap­top and look around would be my ad­vice.

Be­cause from where I’m sit­ting, I can see a ta­ble full of 10 and 12-year-old kids. And, yes, they are all con­sid­er­ably more in­ter­ested in their phones than they are each other. Does that make me sigh and clap a metaphor­i­cal hand to my brow? Yep, a lit­tle. But guess what... there’s an Emoji for all that. In fact, there’s an Emoji for pretty much any ex­pres­sion you could name. And the movie au­di­ence I sat with to see this film got that.

The Emoji Movie is a stan­dard hero’s jour­ney yarn set against the back­drop of a race through the apps in young Alex’s smart­phone. Our hero Gene is a ‘‘meh’’ – ie, dis­in­ter­ested – Emoji. But Gene has been born with a flaw that makes him in­ca­pable of keep­ing to one ex­pres­sion. Gene can show the whole gamut.

Pretty soon Gene has been forced to flee the cosy small-town app the Emo­jis live in and go on the lam to find a myth­i­cal hacker who might be able to make him the way the pro­gram­mer in­tended.

What un­folds holds zero sur­prises, a star­tling de­gree of prod­uct place­ment, some at-times pass­able de­sign and a cou­ple of trips to the out­side world – where Alex the phone’s owner is des­per­ate to im­press a class­mate – that sug­gest the film-mak­ers had an­other, far bet­ter, script in them. They just couldn’t see it.

For all that, The Emoji Movie is not quite the ran­cid pile the re­views might have you be­lieve. Re­view­ers are no­to­ri­ous for gang­ing up and not want­ing to be the lone voice the trolls seek out. Some­times the best thing to do is ignore us and just go see for your­self. Es­pe­cially with kids’ films. The Emoji Movie cer­tainly ain’t get­ting a pos­i­tive re­view from me. But it never made me ac­tu­ally an­gry in the way CHIPS and Bay­watch have re­cently. Emoji is at least a misog­yny and big­otry free-zone, with a cou­ple of smart girl-power mo­ments present if you keep your eyes and ears open for them.

It’s no Wreck-It Ralph or Lego Movie, but it’s also not the crime against hu­man­ity it’s been la­belled. – Graeme Tuck­ett

The Emoji Movie is no Wreck-It Ralph or Lego Movie, but it’s also not the crime against hu­man­ity it’s been la­belled.

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