‘The Emoji Movie’ – Film Review

It’s a film about emojis, and it’s rubbish, of course

Hollywood studios make films for the money. It would be sweetly naïve to think any different, but there is usually a degree of creative ambition in them. You can want to make money at the same time as wanting to tell a great story. At no point in ‘The Emoji Movie’ is there the sense that anybody felt this was a tale worth telling for any reason but cash. It strains its way into existence, joylessly and illogically limping on until it reaches 87 minutes, so it can fulfil its brief of being about emoji and, technically, a film.

Emoji offer no story of their own, because they’re just tiny phone pictures, so one is heaved into being. Inside your phone is a place called Textopolis, where the emoji live. While most can just go about doing as they please – being a crown, pig, half an avocado, or of course, cheerful poop – the face emoji must always maintain the mood they’ve been assigned, e.g. happy, sad, sweaty, horrified cat, so their expressions can be scanned any time the phone’s user sends a text. Why? Excellent question. No answer. Jean (T.J. Miller), our hero, is destined to always be ‘meh’. He doesn’t want to be ‘meh’. He wants to express the full range of feelings, but this disrupts the scanning process. His deletion is ordered, forcing him on the run with a hand (James Corden) and a hacker (Anna Faris) who can…do computer things that might save Jean. For something so supposedly breezy, it’s exhausting trying to make sense of it.

The voice cast is enthusiastic but the material is woeful. Not only is the adventure unfunny and boring, it’s a cynical, undisguised ad for phone apps. For no reason, the characters romp through Candy Crush, YouTube, Spotify, Just Dance and Drop Box, pointing out their excellent features. It’s hideously venal. You may as well just watch an hour and a half of pre-roll ads. At least you wouldn’t be charged for the privilege.