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When I first watched The Emoji Movie, I thought it was bad, but not to the extent that everyone else was making it out to be. I didn't understand how it was any different than the average generic "bad animated movie". However, the more I thought about it, I realized that that is precisely The Emoji Movie's problem: it has all the elements of a bad animated movie, and executes all of them in such a horrible fashion.
The film puts so little effort in world-building, leaving open so many questions for how the smartphone world was supposed to work. Just off the top of my head: how do emojis reproduce? How does aging work for an emoji (the poop emoji's son mentions being ten years old, and judging by the age of the other emojis that would imply the smartphone is several decades old)? Why do poop emojis need to use the bathroom? How do internet trolls work?
The film is also terrible at characterization. Gene is one of the blandest main characters I've ever seen in a mainstream animated film. His entire character seems to revolve around him being "the outcast", and the film doesn't develop him much beyond that. Hi-5 is an example of the Comic Relief executed in the worst manner. Not only is he not funny, but he's also obnoxious and self-centered. Jailbreak appears to be an example of trying to break female stereotypes by being "tough", but that falls flat as the tough-girl archetype is the standard female archetype nowadays.
The film also lacks emotional resonance. Gene wanting to save Hi-5 because "they're friends" fails as the two had barely any time bonding with one other and Hi-5 had been mainly out for himself. Gene's parents reconciling fails to make an impact due to their poor characterization; Mel had been acting like a Jerkass towards Mary for no established reason other than to have a Heel Realization later on, so it makes their later make-up stale. And the climax involving Alex and Addie comes across as Narmy due them bonding over an emoji.
In addition, the film is horrible at handling its moral. For the film is about Gene learning to "be himself", the way the film presents it, it makes the other emojis shunning him seem justified. Big Bad Smiler wants Gene deleted because she fears his "malfunction" could get the app deleted, and that's exactly what happens. Gene does nearly get the app deleted, and the film barely calls any attention to it. And Mel telling Gene he should've believed him in all along at the end falls flat because all Gene had done was prove Mel was correct in thinking he wasn't ready to work on the phone.
Is this the worst movie ever made? No, not even close; there are far worse movies out there. But with that said, The Emoji Movie is still a terrible movie, with lame humor, awful world-building, horrible characters, and an incompetently-handled message.
It's funny how the emotion that the main character is supposed to represent is exactly the emotion I have after watching the movie.
The funny thing is, for about half of it I actually found myself mildly enjoying it. After all, I was open to the idea of someone doing their take on the Wreck-It Ralph kind of plot, and the gimmick of a movie centered around emojis wasn't as cringy to me as it was to others.
Because of this, I was able to notice several good aspects of the movie: the good animation (I was particularly impressed by how they managed to animate the hand emoji to represent various poses), the sometimes creative use of various apps (including some not bad jokes), and how they managed to weave the concept into a plot as coherent and sometimes clever as this. And our main characters were likable enough, though I guess the hand emoji could potentially get on some people's nerves.
Unfortunately, by the time of about two thirds into the movie, the novelty has already worn off and I was left with a very cliched and not very interesting story. I feel that, compared to the rest of the movie, the last third feels the most like going through the motions, which contributes the most to the movie leaving the viewer with a general feeling of "blah".
Some other issues that come to mind is that, because the characters keep jumping from app to app, the movie doesn't have time to flesh out any of them; locations that could use some elaboration would be the hacker haven or the Cloud, for instance. And some of the metaphors are a little confusing, such as the fact that according to this movie's logic, Internet trolls are actually present on your phone and can be deleted(?!).
How likely are you to hate this movie? Well, if any instance of product placement or trying-to-be-hip type of references makes you throw a hissyfit, then you should definitely stay away. Personally, I don't think there's that many of those in the movie and I didn't find them obnoxious enough to be annoyed.
At the end of the day, what we have here is one of those middle-of-the-road forgettable movies, except with a gimmick that causes people to give it more attention than it really deserves. Just an all around meh.
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