Greg Eichelberger reviews 'Emoji Movie'

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

The ‘Emoji Movie’ is easily the dumbest film ever to take place inside of a smartphone.
Of course, with the lead characters being those ridiculous computer icons that indicate various feelings and emotions (thus the title), the proverbial bar is already low to begin with here. Directed by Anthony Leonis, whose been hopping around since penning and helming the inferior sequel, "Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch," in 2005, this latest effort has an even less imaginative title and a worse premise (if that's conceivable).
We are told right away, in no uncertain terms, that emoji's were invented to keep people from having to write too many words (a problem those toiling on this screenplay, including Leondis, Eric Siegel, Mike White, no doubt faced). Therefore, every facial sensation imaginable is covered here, from smiling, frowning, crying, laughing, anger, bemusement and the star of our movie, Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller, "Deadpool," "Office Christmas Party"), who is a Meh. Just what IS a Meh, you ask? It's simply an emoji that shows NO emotion (much like the preview audience I watched this production with recently).
He is as dull as dishwater, but with deadpan parental voiceovers like stand-up comedian Steven Wright ("Call Me Lucky") and Jennifer Coolidge ("Mascots," plus all of those great "Best Of Show" films and those horrid "Date Movie" ones), the nut does not fall far from the tree.
In Gene's case, however, he just cannot keep a straight face (a problem the preview audience did NOT seem to have, by the way).
His inability to be a Meh causes Alex, the high school freshman owner of the smartphone, no end of embarrassment when he texts a pretty classmate.
Because of the snafu, Gene is sentenced to be "control-alt-deleted" by Smiler (voice of former SNL castmember Maya Rudolph, a veteran of some other very bad films such as "Bridesmaids" and "Chips," among others).
Betcha didn't know emojis had a hierarchy, did you? Well, they do. There is also a rule that allows no other emotions to come out (yep, there’s conformity in them thar cell phones).
In addition, there are also thousands of non-facial characters such as Thumbs Ups, Fist Pumps, Hearts, Ice Cream, Cookies, Fried Shrimp, Killer Robots and (inexplicably) Sushi and even piles of crap (although never has there been a more appropriate symbol for a major motion picture).
Anyway, the condemned and his pal High Five (or Hi-5, if you will, voice of late night talk show host James Cordon) escape, go on the lam head to the AP section of Alex's phone to search for a hacker to do a reprogram job and make the mixed up kid a real Meh again.
The idiotic duo finds Jailbreak (voice of Anna Faris, "Lost In Translation," but worst known for such disasters as "House Bunny," "Observe and Report" and the "Chipmunk" series) where they attempt to find the Cloud (a heaven for digital icons), but run into Spam, Viruses, piracy issues, Youtube and that annoying Candy Crush game (you see, it helps to have an intricate knowledge of things like these things to better enjoy this picture).
Of course, this second act is so tedious and unbelievably dull, it is almost impossible to get through, no matter how much computer knowledge or passion one possesses. while all of this nonsense is going on, Alex is trying to get everything on his phone deleted because he thinks something is wrong with it (he has NO idea).
Dopey conclusion then has Gene flashing back to scenes which took place just 10 minutes before and also gives us a terribly horrid rendition of the A-ha hit ("Take On Me") updated and ruined for modern audiences.
Sony and Columbia Pictures Animation, the poor second cousin to Dreamworks, which is the poor second cousin to Disney/Pixar, continues to hold on to their lowest rung with some of the least vibrant or imaginative artwork ever seen on the big screen, unless one counts "Ratchet and Clank" or the "Hotel Transylvania" franchise.
And speaking of that last series, copying a trick used by Pixar of showing an animated short before the main feature, this one begins with Adam Sandler's Count Dracula giving his grandson a hideously huge freak of a puppy that urinates all over everything.
Thanks for getting us in the perfect mood, guys. One big Meh.
Grade: D-