We sent Jay Gambit of Crowhurst to see The Emoji Movie
What did the noise monger maker of the latest cinematic scourge? A sign of the end times, or something more insidious: tepid boredom? Read on to find out.
It’s no secret that The Emoji Movie has been a punchline since it’s announcement. Even the announcement of its script was a (now deleted) skit on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. As the film is finally reaching it’s release date – more and more people are looking at the film and asking “what did we do to deserve this?”
After turning on a shaky, blurred cell phone shot bootleg of the film I half-jokingly post about it on Facebook using its “watching” feature. About twenty minutes in, I get a message from the ToiletOvHell gentlemen with a proposition.
A free trip to the movies? The chance to write about bad movies for one of my favorite blogs? An excuse to get hammered during the day? Check, check and check. I agree, put on Cool Cat Saves The Kids and pass out.
I awaken the next day and something inside me is telling me that I shouldn’t see this movie. I sit with the Fandango page open, its countdown clock stuck at 6 minutes and 6 seconds left as if to say “you’re not gonna lose your place in line for these.” I book my ticket and decide to read a few more reviews before I go ahead and see what this is about. Vanity Fair tends to agree with my assessment that this feels like a soulless version of the movie Foodfight.
After eating a copious amount of edibles and calling an Uber, I sit down. I watch the movie. And oddly, I don’t hate it. In fact, it’s slightly more entertaining than the shitty bootleg copy I saw. There are some all-too-repeated/easy jokes to make (the lead character’s name is “meh” for fuck’s sake) but you’re not getting The Room by any means.
In fact, one could almost liken it to Shrek – if Shrek was an infomercial. It’s self-aware in its conceptual absurdity, a slightly shit kids film that will probably get better as it ages but is made with stoned adults in mind. Most of the dialogue isn’t going to send you into hysterics, but it’ll make you chuckle in the same way that you do upon hearing someone refer to the internet as the “information superhighway.”
Plotwise, a lot of comparisons are drawn with the film Inside Out. Easy enough, both films are essentially about anthropomorphised manifestations of emotions. Both are CG and targeted at kids. That’s pretty much it, though. The Emoji Movie isn’t going to make you cry or think, because there’s no attempt at it. You may as well be watching a series of cutscenes from an Emoji Movie video game when it comes to the plot, which would be fine if it weren’t for the weird attempt to tie in a moral about the virtues of individuality. I get that this is how you follow the standard kids movie formula and there’s no use complaining about by-the-numbers screenwriting here. You don’t go into McDonalds expecting a steakhouse grade burger, and you don’t go into The Emoji Movie expecting a moving piece of cinema art.
In the first ten minutes, you get a patronizing view of young adults whose lives “revolve around their phones” with attention spans that get “shorter and shorter” – framing the birth of the Emoji as being borne out of a generation too lazy to type out full words. So when the jokes about timeshares and nothing feeling as good as “the first time” come at you, it just feels so contrived.
There are obviously ethical questions to be asked when masquerading a full 90 minutes of shameless commercialism as a kids movie, but Toy Story was just as egregious, and we all turned out somewhat okay. You can make a kids movie and still keep a capitalistic message – just ask LEGO. Hell, almost every feature for the past few years has been some comic book, toy or video game related property. There’s no moral high ground just because technology has advanced what is considered a toy.
What’s weird is that where with Battleship and Pixels were expected to do well – it’s almost as if Sony knew that this would be a flop from the start. So then, what was the reasoning behind pushing a film that they knew was just plain bad – and am I taking the bait by writing this review? Was the whole point to force this into memeification so that it does well with millennials who will enjoy it ironically? Considering that Sony forbade reviews from being published until hours before the movie opened, it certainly looks like it. I mean, James Franco is playing Tommy Wiseau in a big budget film – so anything is possible.
Nobody ever crticized the Captain Eos film/ride that Michael Jackson was in, because we all kinda understand that it’s all designed to sell sugar water and set up cues for the ride’s mechanics. Watching the Emoji Movie is like that. With 4DX you get seat movement and all that, so it really does feel like you’re on a theme park ride. Strip that away and you have a fairly boring feature.
My suggestion is to catch it in theaters. Have a few beers, and then have a few more. Eat some pot brownies. Enough so that you don’t care about the mostly lazy storytelling or the middle-of-the-road jokes. Don’t expect Honey I Shrunk The Kids, expect Honey I Shrunk The Kids: The Ride. Without the added effects, it’s just kinda tedious and it won’t be that much fun until we can view it with full on cultural detachment. That means we need to wait until Dropbox, Spotify, Candy Crush and all of the other apps in the film are dead. Soundcloud’s down, so here’s to waiting. In the meantime, here’s a commercial for Blockbuster from 2005. If The Emoji Movie is half as fun in ten years, then we may have a classic on our hands.
Many thanks to Jay for soaring where men may only dream. Catch Crowhurst over on Bandcamp.