By Jack Dignan
There are three separate writers credited for The Emoji Movie. That’s three separate creative minds all coming together with the intention of writing something special. Nobody goes out of their way to write something nobody’s going to like. We all want our film to be the next Citizen Kane or The Godfather. And as for the three writers here, they wanted to make the next Inside Out. Eric Siegal, Mike White and Tony Leondis, who also directed the film, joined forces and bumped their creativity together for a film that’s truly beyond words. The Emoji Movie is something special indeed.
It’s an experience unlike any other: a polarizing and seductive 90 minutes that will tantalize your mind and stimulate your body. The Emoji Movie is cerebral. This is a film that needs celebration. It provides a sensation within your body that you simply cannot experience anywhere else. The likes of Disney, Pixar or even Dreamworks wouldn’t dare make something as audacious as this. Those are studios too caught up in their emotionally backed, original ideas to even think of coming up with something like The Emoji Movie. This is the film we were born to see. It’s one that will define a generation. Heck, this is going to be one we’re going to talk about decades from now.
Right from the get-go, Sony Pictures let you know that you’re in for a treat. In a genius power-move, they expertly alter their famous logo, concluding its presence with an animated smart phone popping up onto the screen and clicking a photo. It’s a simple move and a smart decision. Just the mere thought of it makes my mouth water, for that single three second clip just oozes with the taste of what’s the come. The fleeting moment is a singular representation of The Emoji Movie’s vast creativity and endlessly original gags, in which your beloved circle-shaped smart phone apps are brought to life before your very eyes.
From there, things only go up. We’re introduced to the fittingly named Textopolis, a vast civilization that… you guessed it… lives inside your phone. You thought there we just wires and buttons hogging the space in there? Wrong. For Textopolis is a land of acceptance and opportunity. Emojis walk the street, where they’re ridiculed and yelled at, a fitting and definitely 100% intentional political message aimed at modern America. Here, we meet Gene (T.J. Miller, finally matching the success of previous smash-hit Yogi Bear 3D). Gene is a meh emoji, but he wants to be so much more. It’s a representation of the human spirit, and an embodiment of all we hold dear.
We latch onto Gene through his opening musical number, evoking an emotional side of me that I didn’t know previously existed. He sings, dances, aww’s at babies and steals the pepperoni off of innocent pizzas. A true American hero in the works. But the powers up above are annoyed at Gene’s multi-emotion capability. They want to contort him into their single-sided ways, where Patrick Stewart plays a poop emoji who joyously chants “we’re number two” with his equally unflattering child. Every frame is bursting with genius gags, so funny and original that none of the kids in my auditorium were laughing.
A lot of the humour seems to have gone over their heads. They mustn’t have understood the intent. It’s funny because Poop, the character, is literal poop. And poop, the excrement, is referred to as number two on the chain of toiletries. So, in chanting that they are number two, they’re embracing not only their ability to succeed at their job, but they’re playing with the words to create a most sincere potty joke. It’s a joke so funny, so original and so witty that I would’ve been surprised if there had been any less than three fully-grown adult writers involved. You have to have a long history in Hollywood to create something so thoughtful and meaningful, and it’s a career move that’s clearly paid off.
When Gene is sent in a text message by his human, Alex (Jake T. Austin), he makes the wrong face. It’s an understandable mistake, one any of the emoji’s could’ve made, but the higher powers don’t agree, and more importantly, neither does Alex. He schedules an appointment to delete his phone, a thing regular real humans definitely do, threatening the existence of Textopolis. Their world is ending, and it’s up to Gene to save it all. With the help of Hi-5 (James Cordon, an animated extraordinaire after starring in Norm of the North and Trolls) and Jailbreak (Ann Farris, now making this the Yogi Bear 3D reunion we always wanted), Gene ventures out into the cloud, with the hopes of hacking his way to victory.
The Emoji Movie is powerful stuff. There really isn’t a better message out there than “when life gets you down and people want you dead, just hack their computers and solve everything.” Not only that, but the film deals with undertones of princess misrepresentation in the media. No, when they sing, birds don’t appear out of nowhere and join in with their tunes. They’re people too, you guys, and The Emoji Movie decides to set things straight. There are even themes and justifications behind sexting, and a character at one point stating, “words are overrated,” a thought process I’m sure the screenwriters behind this masterpiece believe. However, at one point, The Emoji Movie does muck up. It falsifies the ideology that a teenage boy attempting to flirt won’t use the eggplant emoji, and it’s an inaccuracy far too obvious to forgive.
When these characters are all flung together, that’s when the journey really begins. It works so well because you don’t know a thing about them. You are, in a way, the embodiment of these characters. You don’t know what’s going, why you’re with these people or why you should care. I know I certainly felt their pain as they unsuccessfully tried to dance their way to victory, all before taking a romantic boat ride through Spotify and playing an intense not-at-all-product-placement game of Candy Crush. The Emoji Movie takes us to world’s children love to play with and know all too well, most notably DropBox and the Cloud. I’ve never met a single child who hasn’t said that DropBox is their favourite iPhone app, let alone a child under five who hasn’t used emojis. It’s all the rage right now.
There’s apps constantly falling into a pit known as the trash, a voyage to return to HQ, a mission to change the system and a comedic side character who’s left behind in a void of darkness. Many will go and state the obvious and unjustified criticism that The Emoji Movie is nothing more than an Inside Out rip-off, but that simply isn’t true. It’s a reflection of the past, expanding upon that original premise and creating deeper undertones, while also paying homage to its prior brilliance. This is so much more than a movie. This is art. With the emoji world constantly changing, Apple now introducing a camera that turns you into an emoji, there’s so much wriggle room for new ideas. If no sequel is on the horizon, Hollywood is truly falling apart.
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