I guess it had to happen, we live in a time now where nothing is sacred, nothing is safe from being milked dry, and anything is free game. We’ve seen it all from various obscure choices in the videogame archives; to Barbie to Thomas the Tank Engine to board games and to Lego. They will make a movie out of bloody anything given half a chance. I’m half expecting an animated movie about the world of marbles to roll along anytime soon (yes I’m proud of that pun).
I think its fair to say I wasn’t expecting anything much from this movie, if anything I only saw it out of pure morbid curiosity. I was simply intrigued at how they could construct a narrative around some mobile phone app icons. And my God do they try their best here! They really stretch and reach and twist that thin ass plot as best they can. Does it work? Not really no, but kudos for trying.
I mean I can’t deny there are some nice little touches here, its not all terrible. The emoji’s live inside a phone (duh) which is owned by a young boy named Alex. Said boy is going through the usual pre-pubescent angst with girls and whatnot and of course being young he uses his phone a lot. Within the phone the emoji’s dwell in the city of Textopolis (I like it), their daily job is to produce their emoticon or expression on demand (when Alex uses it). Gene is a ‘meh’ emoji but he can also make other expressions which is looked upon as freakish, or like having a rare disease. When Gene gets his chance to be used by Alex he has a nervous breakdown and fudges it up. He then finds himself listed for deletion because he is now deemed a malfunction. Gene must now flee the city with another has-been emoji to help him find a hacker to hopefully get himself fixed.
So the plot is pretty much the same old shit we’ve many times before. The protagonist must go on the run to evade the antagonist and her henchmen (henchemoji’s). Along the way the protagonist meets new friends that are considered losers basically; and in the end after numerous scrapes they all discover themselves and make friends (whilst saving the day). Its a standard plot mapped on top of this emoji concept.
Despite that its still flippin’ convoluted though, the nonsense they set up to explain how emoji’s are used on a phone. Its kinda treated like a gameshow scenario where talented, experienced and obviously popular emoji’s are used regularly (almost like a sports team). But if an emoji shows good promise or whatever then they get the chance to be ‘promoted’ onto the phones main app screen. It sounds ridiculous because it basically is. Then all the emoji’s that aren’t used anymore get lumped into a loser lounge type scenario. Very predictable but also somewhat daft as I’m sure most emoji’s actually get used a fair bit the world over.
Call me stupid but one of the main fun things about this movie was spotting all the different emoji’s (sad I know). And sure enough they’re all here, right down to the national flags. I quite like how the old emoticons are presented as old age pensioners, umm…that’s about as clever as it gets really. Aside from that the entire movie plays out like a long TV advert for various smart phone apps like Twitter, Candy Crush, Just Dance etc…The movie also uses every flippin’ bit of computer jargon it can muster, in a very predictable and cringeworthy fashion. For instance, pirating is represented by…yep…pirates. A Trojan horse is…umm…a big horse. A firewall is a big fiery wall (ugh!!!), and a virus is a sick looking electronic bacteria (flip me!). Add to that a whole bunch of nauseating pop songs, modern trendy teen lingo, various brands and voilà!
The sidekick characters bland and unfunny (hi-five and a princess), again totally predictable. Alex decides to completely wipe his phone when a few apps play up, why not just uninstall them? When the phone is almost wiped Alex stops because of an unusual emoji?? (Gene pulling a stupid face). This emoji is then sent to the girl he has a crush on and she instantly likes him because of that?? Most of the emoji’s in Textopolis are erased during this process, but they all come back perfectly OK when the phone is rebooted? No side affects from that?
Overall the movie certainly isn’t as bad as I thought it was gonna be (but its still quite bad). There are some kernels of a good idea hidden away within, the odd sparse highlight. But again overall its still very very basic, bland, uninspiring, unfunny, and it doesn’t even look that great really. This was always gonna be an uphill battle simply because what the hell can you do with emoji’s?? I stand by my kudos to all involved for actually managing to produce something that isn’t a complete train wreck, but at the end of the day I think we can all agree with was a complete waste of time and money. Heck the aim seems to be to push young kids towards their phones more than ever. As if youngsters need that kind of encouragement these days.