The Big Picture

The Emoji Movie

Not every film aiming to heavily market products can manage to follow in the footsteps of The Lego Movie and meet with the same unforeseen success. That, Tony Leondis, director of The Emoji Movie – and probably everyone at Sony Pictures Animation, by now – learned it the hard way…

It’s no longer a mystery (or was it ever?) for anyone that The Emoji Movie, an animated feature film inspired by our modern age’s wordless/lazy way of communicating via smartphones, is a BIG flop. Actually, one could say we should have seen the disaster coming from miles away, not after we first heard of the project (there was still hope by then), but when we came to realize that the movie stank even before it reached theatres by owning one of the most disliked trailers on YouTube (at least it won at something!).

In their attempt to build a universe around the little images living on our screens, Tony Leondis, Eric Siegel, and Mike White (yep, it took 3 men to ruin a story with, believe it or not, potential), drawing inspiration from Pixar’s Toy Story and Inside Out, chose a meh emoji going through an identity crisis for main character. Named Gene, the small, yellow little guy (voiced by a bored T.J. Miller) lives in Textopolis, a digital city inside the phone of 14-years-old user, Alex. What distinguishes Gene from the other emojis is that he has more than one expression, which leads him to one day sadly ruin Alex’s attempt to flirt with a girl (as you can read, the stakes are pretty high in this movie…). Banned by Smiler, the leader of the emojis and a creepy version of a smiley face, for having failed, Gene will then begin a journey with his hand sidekick Hi-5 (James Corden) and hacker Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to reach The Cloud in order to get fixed.


But although The Emoji Movie is undoubtedly not worth anyone’s time, especially your kids’ (you’ll soon figure out why), the amazingly funny and brutal reviews from professional critics that followed its release demonstrate that something glorious ultimately came out of it.

Here’s a selection of our favorite ones:

“We should have seen The Emoji Movie’s utter awfulness coming,” says Alissa Wilkinson in her review for Vox“The Emoji Movie is a waste of time, resources, and a bunch of comedians’ voices, plus a premise that actually had the potential to do some small good in the world. It’s less of a movie and more of an insult. […] Seeing The Emoji Movie is a vote for less imagination, more advertising aimed at kids.”

When Matt Singer, critic at ScreenCrush, exclaims, “there are plenty of words that can describe The Emoji Movie. Here are a few of them: Unfunny. Saccharine. Nonsensical. Painful. And, of course, crappy. (If you prefer the poop emoji, that works too.)” David Ehrlich, from IndieWire, adds, “Make no mistake, “The Emoji Movie” is very, very, very bad (we’re talking about a hyperactive piece of corporate propaganda in which Spotify saves the world and Sir Patrick Stewart voices a living turd).”

“This is a film about the power of self-expression, and yet it exists to advertise a limited visual language that people don’t have the power to expand upon or customize,” continues Ehrlich. “It tells kids that they can be whatever they want to be, as long as they want to be something that Apple thought to include in their latest update.”

“The Emoji Movie will send you into a spiral emoji of despair,” writes Emily Yoshida in her headline for Vulture“It is one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen, much less one ostensibly made for children.”

‘The Emoji Movie can’t escape its own idiocy,” confirms Glenn Kenny from The New York Times.

Home of the free-spirited and other, more terrifying online creatures, Twitter also opened the door to even more honest and irreverent opinions. Some of which we couldn’t resist to share with you to end this week’s Big Picture on a cheekier note: