THIS IS TJ MILLER’S SE­RI­OUS FACE

‘The Emoji Movie’ star has some good ad­vice for kids.

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE - EVA KIS @thi­siskis eva.kis@metro.us

TJ Miller may have left the HBO show “Sil­i­con Val­ley,” but he hasn’t gone far from the world of tech­nol­ogy.

His film “The Emoji Movie,” open­ing Friday, turns the emo­jis in­side our phones — ev­ery­thing from sushi to smi­ley faces — into real char­ac­ters liv­ing in a world of their own. But (spoiler alert, if you can say that about a kids’ movie) it’s be­cause Miller’s char­ac­ter is dif­fer­ent that he helps save the day.

“What we re­mind peo­ple is to just be your­self and know that you have lim­it­less po­ten­tial,” says the ac­tor. “I would love to ham­mer that f—ing mes­sage home right now for the en­tire sum­mer.”

Miller plays Gene, who’s sup­posed to be the Meh emoji but is con­stantly over­flow­ing with emo­tions. This is dis­tress­ing to his par­ents, both Meh emo­jis them­selves, and his ca­reer prospects — Gene lives in Tex­topo­lis, the city in­side of a phone owned by a young boy named Alex.

If you don’t do what you were de­signed to do, you’re deleted. That idea re­minded Miller of the an­i­mated film that was a for­ma­tive part of his child­hood.

“‘The Brave Lit­tle Toaster’ was a sad but won­der­ful tale,” he re­calls. “What a good mes­sage to be like, ‘Don’t be con­sumerist and waste­ful, but care about the ob­jects that you have and fix things that are bro­ken in­stead of throw­ing them away,’ and that’s what this movie is about.

“Be­cause Gene is a mal­func­tion, they’re try­ing to delete him and ev­ery­one he’s in­volved with, so you re­ally come to care about th­ese dig­i­tal en­ti­ties in a way that also is re­flec­tive of how much we love our phones.”

Miller has some il­lus­tri­ous com­pany for Gene’s ad­ven­ture, with his friend, the Hi-5 emoji (James Cor­den), a de­light­fully tongue-in-cheek turn by Sir Pa­trick Ste­wart as the Poop emoji, and the hacker Jail­break (Anna Faris). The movie packs in a ton of mes­sages, from re­al­iz­ing that Likes and Fa­vorites don’t add up to true friends, self-ac­cep­tance and cau­tion­ing about on­line ha­rass­ment. “We say trolling is the worst of the worst things to do with your time, and that’s pretty im­por­tant ’cause our pres­i­dent is a troll,” he says.

Much of Miller’s joy from do­ing an­i­mated films — he’s also had parts in “Big Hero 6” and “How to Train Your Dragon” — comes from the de­light they bring to kids who may take the ex­pe­ri­ence with them forever. It’s a very dif­fer­ent kind of com­edy from “Sil­i­con Val­ley,” but one that he’s cul­ti­vated since start­ing out as a stand-up comic in Chicago.

“You need that full skillset to do com­edy in an an­i­mated fea­ture be­cause a great an­i­mated film that takes you on a roller coaster of emo­tions,” he ex­plains.

“And while chil­dren don’t de­serve to laugh as much as adults be­cause they’re not aware of their own mor­tal­ity, I still think it’s im­por­tant for kids to laugh.”

SONY PIC­TURES

TJ Miller stars as the Meh emoji with too many feel­ings in “The Emoji Movie.”

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