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