For a review of “The Emoji Movie,”
“Words aren’t cool,” is the courtship advice imparted by one texting teen to another in “The Emoji Movie.” That statement is the canary in the coal mine that “Cyrano de Bergerac” this movie is most decidedly not. Will Alex ( Jake T. Austin) choose the right emoji to express his ardor for Addie ( Tati Gabrielle)? Or will “meh” emoji Gene ( T. J. Miller) mess it all up for him? Perhaps we should just throw our smartphones into the sea and let the waves take us now.
“The Emoji Movie” is an easy, cheap target for abuse. The marketing campaign has centered around a chocolatey brown you- know- what named “Poop” ( voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart), adorning our bus shelters and billboards, for crying out loud. If we are trolled in this way, the only answer is to troll right back.
And the truth is that “The Emoji Movie” is exactly what you expect: There’s no need to wait and see if it surprises, if maybe it’s potentially great. Nope, it’s a perfect reflection of its main character— meh.
If you were to imagine the story told by “The Emoji Movie,” it’s likely this would be the one you’d dream up. It’s just that obvious. When malfunctioning “meh” emoji Gene starts a glitch in Alex’s phone, he goes on an odyssey from app to app, hoping to reprogram himself to only express one emotion, the way emojis should.
But, of course, whatmakes him different, his “malfunction,” is what makes him unique. On his journey, he makes new friends, falls in love, learns to accept himself and manages to become a new, more evolved emoji, expressing a multitude of emotions at once.
Director Tony Leondis cowrote the script along with Eric Siegel, and surprisingly, Mike White (“School of Rock”) is also credited. But for a film that wants to imagine the world inside smartphones, this story just feels so unimaginative and lowstakes. It’s tied too closely to the way we use smartphones to create a transporting, wild new world. Every step of the journey is to prevent Alex from restoring the phone to factory settings, destroying the world of Textopolis, where emojis live. But there’s no explanation as to why the emojis can’t just come back, if it’s all digital detritus. Therefore, it’s hard to care at all about whether or not Gene can consistently make a “meh” face and if he’ll be eaten by anti- virus bots.
There aren’t any real jokes, and most laughs come from app recognition— Candy Crush, the Twitter bird, and look, now they’re taking a row boat on the “music streams” of Spotify. It’s truly just “Intellectual Property: The Movie.” If we’re laughing at simple brand recognition, then yes, it’s true, words aren’t cool anymore, and smartphones have made us dumb.
“The Emoji Movie” isn’t terrible, it isn’t offensive or outright bad. It just is, and there could be far worse ways to spend 86 minutes. But maybe, just maybe, it’d be the better choice to spend those 86 minutes outside, or reading a book, or talking to another human being’s face. Because “The Emoji Movie” could not be more meh.
“The Emoji Movie,” a Sony Pictures Animation release, is rated PG for rude humor. Running time: 86 minutes.
Director David Leitch’s “Atomic Blonde” strives to be a mysterious Reagan- age spy drama that has a 21st century feel because it has been infused with the aggressively excessive violence so pronounced in the world of graphic novels. The script by Kurt Johnstad is based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City,” by Antony Johnston.
The spy thriller unfolds in late 1989 as the Berlin Wall is finally taken down. While the world is watching the historical moment, a network of spies from multiple countries are all waging a kill- or- be- killed confrontation where the violence never lacks for intensity.
Even with a remarkable performance by Oscar- winning Charlize Theron, none of these parts connect strongly enough to make this a project worthy of launching a franchise. It’s got enough fun moments to be entertaining but never delivers the mushroom cloud of excitement the name would suggest.
Theron does her best playing Lorraine Broughton, one of the top agents with MI6. She’s sent to West Germany where she must work with Berlin station chief David Percival ( James McAvoy), a man who’s been undercover so long he’s lost his own identity. They must find a way to deal with vast differences so they can recover a list that in the wrong hands could be deadly for the good guy spies.
The mission is challenging from the start as Broughton spends as much time fighting for her life as trying to complete the mission. It slowly becomes obvious that there are some deadly dealings being made to get control of the list. Most of the planning gives way to the attacks that are the source of themovie’s continued use of violence filling the screen with buckets of blood.
Theron continues to the show the deep skill she has at handling action sequences as shown in previous work like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Aeon Flux.” Theron is a killing machine in high heels. The work she does in an extended fight sequence that takes her through several floors of a building is better than the kind of action work done by her male counterparts in their own spy thrillers.
The added bonus is that Theron can shift from a killer look to a seductive stare with a blink. She shows off that charm in a series of well- choreographed encounters with another spy played by Sofia Boutella. They sizzle together.
Theron’s good but she can’t help the script that’s full of predictable twists and a story where the majority of the characters look to come from the “Make Your Own Spy” paper doll set. McAvoy’s bad boy act falls flat and the other spies offer the same bureaucratic elements that have been used in other spy stories.
Leitch showed with his work on the Keanu Reeves action films “John Wick” and “John Wick 2’ that he understands how to tell an action story where there’s little to no plot. Those films worked because of a much better pacing. With “Atomic Blonde,” Keitch gives in to the tendency to just let the camera linger on Theron. That would not be a bad thing if this were a music video but as an intense spy drama, those scenes just slow the process.
The real problem is the story. It has enough bits and pieces of action and drama to work as a graphic novel. But it’s not enough to make this movie a roller coaster ride.
Even the way the film is shot screams of mediocrity. The city streets, buildings and locations are a study in gray in such a way that combined with Theron’s platinum locks, the production often feels only one F- stop away from being a black- andwhite movie. Considering this story harkens back to the cold war, a colorless approach would have given it at least a striking look.
Credit Theron with being so powerful on screen that she often distracts from the film’s flaws. That works for a lot of the movie but without support from better writing, a crisper direction or more interesting supporting players, “Atomic Bomb” never ends up being blast it should have been.
“Atomic Blonde,” a Focus Features release, is rated R for language, nudity, graphic violence. Running time: 115 minutes.
Charlize Theron stars in the new Focus Features release “Atomic Blonde.”