Why “The Emoji Movie” is Unnecessary

Before “The Emoji Movie” actually hit cinemas at the end of July, there was actual hope that the film could become an animated hit along the lines of “The Lego Movie” or “Inside Out.” But you can forget about that very quickly. Just to give you an idea of just how bad this movie is – the highlight of this animated flick is Sir Patrick Stewart voicing the role of an animated poop emoji. For so many reasons, then, “The Emoji Movie” is simply unnecessary.

Is this a movie or a massive product placement video?

Let’s start with the fact that this movie quickly abandons any plot narrative in favor of just being a giant product placement for apps you may or may not already have on your smartphone. You see, the fundamental premise of “The Emoji Movie” is that a group of emojis must travel from app to app within your smartphone. And so it feels like you’re watching product placement after product placement. At one point, what might have been a neat animation feat turns out to be some kind of product placement for yet another app.

And in this alternative smartphone-app universe, an app like Dropbox is a form of emoji heaven. (And, just to underscore this point, the movie reminds us that Dropbox is completely safe from malware. Groan.) Along the way, we’re reminded of apps from Crackle (owned by Sony, which produced this film via Sony Pictures Animation), WeChat, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Dropbox. Oh, and Candy Crush makes an appearance in this film, too. This constant product placement mentality is why Vox called this film “less of a movie and more of an insult.” We’re paying money to see a 90-minute product placement video!

“The Emoji Movie” abandons any attempt to make a meaningful social critique

While many people were probably squirming in their seats as soon as they heard Hollywood was making a movie about emojis, there was still a chance at the outset that the film could make a real social commentary on communication in the modern era, or on how technology is changing the way we view the world around us, or on the dangers of social conformity (in the film, each emoji can only express a single emotion). While nobody was really expecting a Pixar-level animated classic, there’s no reason why this movie had to be any worse than “The Lego Movie.” (Or, at least, any worse than the surprise movie hit “Sausage Party.”)

The problem, quite simply, is that the makers of this movie decided that it would be far better to make this film something young teens and tweens would want to see. So they completely bungled what might have been smart, clever dialogue in favor of lines like, “Throw some sauce on that dance burrito.” The main protagonist of the animated film, Alex (voiced by Jake T. Austin), has lines of dialogue that just sounds so hamfisted and wrong: it’s what graying Hollywood execs think kids are saying these days, and not how they are actually communicating and talking. Memo to Hollywood: no – we don’t want to do the “Emoji Bop.” And we won’t make it viral for you.

“The Emoji Movie” completely squanders its A-list comedic talent

You would think that an animated film featuring the voice of comedians like James Corden (who voices the role of the emoji Hi-5), Maya Rudolph (who voices the role of Smiler) and Anna Faris (who voices the role of Jailbreak) would be so much funnier. But again, the problem is that this is essentially a giant corporate infomercial, and the focus is more on finding potential product placement opportunities (Just Dance Now, anyone?) than on actually creating a meaningful film with any substantive dialogue.

It’s for this reason The Guardian referred to this film as a “corporate clickbait exercise.” Just as clickbait articles on the Internet lead you down a rabbit-hole of websites that never deliver what they promise, this film leads you down an empty path that never delivers anything of value. It’s not just that you’ll be disappointed in this film and how you just threw away $20 to see it — it’s that you’ll actually be angry that a bunch of corporate suits actually created this to make you part with your hard-earned cash.

“The Emoji Movie” is completely derivative and unoriginal

When director Tony Leondis originally discussed plans for the movie, it sounded like he had in “Toy Story” in mind. As Leondis has pointed out, “Emojis are the new toy of the 21st century.” And so it probably dawned on him that he’d create a new type of “Toy Story” for teens and tweens, and that toy story would involve emojis.

But, along the way, Leondis also probably saw “Inside Out,” because that’s exactly what much of this film tries to capture. “Inside Out” gives a fictionalized account of what’s happening inside someone’s brain, and “The Emoji Movie” gives a fictionalized account of what’s happening inside your smartphone. Leondis probably thought he had a slam dunk winner.

But the problem is that Leondis didn’t stop there, simply by trying to copy the success of “Toy Story” and “Inside Out” – he also threw in elements from “The Lego Movie,” “Sausage Party” and just about every other animated film of the past 24 months. At some point, you might even start to confuse those silly yellow emojis (like Gene, the “meh emoji”) for those silly yellow minions.

“The Emoji Movie” tries too hard to be something that it’s not

At one point of the movie, we’re told that emojis are “the most important invention in the history of communication.” That gives you a sense of how seriously the film wants you, the viewer, to take it. We’re supposed to believe that emojis are far superior to the first hieroglyphics created by the Egyptians (which also appear in this movie, if only briefly). But, c’mon. This is a movie where a pile of animated poop has a much-anticipated role!


The final result is that we get a movie that’s more cynical and manipulative than funny and sweet. It’s a film that you might be tempted to see, especially if you have young ones home for the summer holidays. But don’t do it. Don’t waste your money. “The Emoji Movie” is completely unnecessary. If you don’t know what to do with two hours of your summer, stream “Toy Story” on Netflix instead.


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