Review – The Emoji Movie

Luke Stevenson is a journalist at Community Care and an avid cinema-watcher. He is also one of the three hosts of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast.

Poster for 2017 animated comedy film The Emoji Movie

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: U
UK Release Date: 4th August 2017
Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Tony Leondis
Writer: Tony Leondis, Eric Siegel, Mike White
Starring: TJ Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Wright, Jake T Austin
Synopsis: A ‘meh’ emoji who struggles to hold the expression he was born to perform sets off on a journey of self-discovery through various apps when he messes up in a way that threatens the existence of all of the emojis who live within the city of Textopolis.



This summer, The Emoji Movie has been designated as the movie community’s attack film. Critics have lined up to smash this animated flick with such relish it feels like an arms race for the most outrageous metaphor, the most attention-grabbing Rotten Tomatoes snippet and the best headline to draw in readers who, broadly, knew this movie would be bad months ago. At The Popcorn Muncher, we hold ourselves to a higher editorial standard than those traffic chasers. We deal in cold hard facts, so here they are.

The Emoji Movie is a movie. That much is undeniable, and if my many calls to the ASA, BBFC and the Pope are anything to go by, this fact is also unchallengeable. Secondly, it stars TJ Miller as the ‘meh’ emoji, Gene, who messes up on his first day as an emoji in Alex’s phone, prompting a race against time as Alex seeks to erase the device and Gene tries to prevent it. In this quest he enlists James Corden, for whom I can no longer mount a convincing defence, and Anna Faris as a punk-rock, hacker emoji with blue hair and a secret.

Finally, this movie has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing. Six per cent is way too high.

This movie is a masterpiece in cynical filmmaking. The jokes are solely based on simple visual gags and ‘I know that thing’ references. It feels like the script was concocted in the cauldron of a particularly sinister group of Hollywood executives who haven’t seen a movie since 1971 and thought an afternoon on Twitter was the best research they could do for a feature-length animation.



In this spreadsheet-driven world of movie making, cynical producers also managed to shoehorn in some fashionably deep themes. Faris’s character, Jailbreak, is given a flat, quasi-feminist plotline that fails to live up to its mediocre establishment. There’s some dynamite social commentary about young people obsessed with their phones and sharing things on Facebook lifted from a 2008 pile of discarded Mail Online comment pieces in there for good measure. When it reaches for depth, and instead plummets headfirst into a deeper abyss, The Emoji Movie stops being silly and forgettable and becomes like a bad Black Mirror episode being written inside a Black Mirror episode about how the world is being overrun by mass-produced, thoughtless media and we have all become emojis.

Perhaps the worst part is that no part of this movie ever feels like people are trying. This is a tick-box exercise in ‘movies parents will take their kids to see’, with just enough references to acceptable popular culture that it might help them last its lean 86 minute runtime. However, the only thing this movie hates more than comedy and effort is your children. Children deserve better than this thoughtless mess of product placement and James Corden. Especially James Corden.

Cinemagoers and fans of animation deserve a provocative emotional storyline that is there because it is at the heart of the movie, not because it was fashionable in Inside Out. Children deserve credit and a belief they can understand clever jokes and big themes. They should not just be expected to throw their love and money into a talking turd and an incredibly belated reference to that sodding Pineapple Pen guy.

To bring this back to cold, hard facts…

  • The Emoji Movie is a movie.
  • It is a bad movie.
  • Don’t go see The Emoji Movie.


Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

It’s not the harbinger of civilisation’s fall that many have called it, but The Emoji Movie is certainly a lifeless corporate cash-in that is merely a marketing exercise for a variety of smartphone apps. There’s no imagination on show with a concept that liberally and cynically rips off Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph without any of the wit and charm of either of those films.


Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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