2014's The Lego Movie has a lot of answer for. In concept, it was a pointless cash-in, born solely out of wide familiarity with a certain consumer product. Yet it ended up being a surprisingly heartfelt and witty film buoyed by a perceptive portrayal of our collective experience with said consumer product. That turnaround, and the resulting massive commercial success, has given rise to the idea of making a movie about more or less anything. And so now we have The Emoji Movie, a CGI-animated film based on those tiny cartoon images available via your smartphone's keyboard.
The story mostly takes place inside the smart phone of a teenage boy named Alex. We learn that each and every emoji has their own little life, and we are primarily concerned with a "meh" emoji named Gene, voiced by former Silicon Valley star TJ Miller. When Gene's actions result in a disaster at the heart of Alex's phone - which then begins to embarassingly malfunction - Gene must head out beyond the texting app to solve the problem. He is joined on his adventure by a high-five emoji named Hi-5 (James Corden), and a hacker emoji named Jailbreak (Anna Faris).
The Emoji Movie is never able to get ahead of its craven reason for existing - there are endless visual and word puns, (such as "poop" emojis chanting "We're number two!"), but they only ever induce groans. There are some inspired voice-casting choices (such as famously deadpan comedian Steven Wright as Gene's father), but they fail to elevate the film.
Although this is clearly attempting to emulate The Lego Movie with its knowing tone, it's remains a nakedly hollow exercise all throughout. Less fun than a break-up text.
Cast: T.J. Miller, Maya Rudolph, James Corden
Director: Anthony Leondis
Running time: 86 mins
Rating: PG (some scenes may scare very young children)
DID YOU KNOW...
Jennifer Lawrence dropped out of another film - The Rosie Project - in order to work with Darren Aronofsky on Mother!, during which time the pair began dating.