emoji_movie emoji_movie
Feature Film

Who Hated ‘The Emoji Movie’ The Most?

“A piece of shit…”

“A force of insidious evil…”

“A soul-crushing disaster…”

“Nakedly idiotic…”

“As bad and brutally depressing as everything else in 2017…”

It’s no surprise that critics disliked Sony Animation’s The Emoji Movie. On Rotten Tomatoes, the site that compiles reviews from established critics, reviewers near-unanimously despised the film, giving it just a 6% positive rating, among the lowest ever for an animated feature with 30-plus reviews. Currently, that puts the film below Norm of the North, which ended up at 9%, and slightly above Yu-Gi-Oh: The Movie at 5%.

It’s not just that critics disliked Emoji Movie, the level of vitriol and contempt directed at the movie is unprecedented for an animated feature. Critics seem to be engaged in an unspoken contest to see who can serve up the harshest review of the review.

The movie was originally titled Emoji Movie: Express Yourself, and while the film failed to express much of anything besides the incompetence of Sony animation president Kristine Belson, it has certainly inspired critics to express themselves in the most vocal and blunt way possible.

Here are some of the acrid and grim takes on Sony’s latest:

Indiewire’s David Ehrlich, who said the film “is almost as bad and brutally depressing as everything else in 2017,” added:

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. 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. What do you want to be when you grow up? The choices are airplane pilot, Santa Claus, and Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie. Jailbreak laments the fact that, for a long time, the only female emoji was a princess. Great news: There are now like four other options.

“Please restore my eyes to their factory settings,” pleaded Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post. “They have seen The Emoji Movie, a new exercise in soulless branding, aimed primarily at little kids.”

Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson, whose review is simply titled, “Do not see The Emoji Movie” included this gem:

It’s amazing — or maybe it isn’t — that in addition to its poorly conceived Handmaid’s Tale stunt, the filmmakers saw fit to have a character sing, “Nobody knows the touch screens I’ve seen / Nobody knows the screenshots,” while sitting atop a pile of trash, to the tune of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” a spiritual written by slaves to bolster their spirits while toiling in the pre-Emancipation American South.

The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde said “there are no words” to describe this “(POS) piece of shit” before coming up with these words:

It is a soul-crushing disaster because it lacks humor, wit, ideas, visual style, compelling performances, a point of view or any other distinguishing characteristic that would make it anything but a complete waste of your time, not to mention that of the diligent animators who brought this catastrophe into being.

In an A.V. Club review entitled “The Emoji Movie is Inside Out crossed with a Sony commercial and dunked in toxic ooze,” Vadim Rizov wrote,

[Director Tony] Leondis has cited Toy Story as an inspiration, but The Emoji Movie is more like a severely debased Inside Out that takes place inside of a smartphone. The “plot” is really an excuse to hop from one app to another; there are stops in the lands of Candy Crush, WeChat, Just Dance, Instagram, Spotify, and (for the kids!) Dropbox. That last one proves crucial, saving the fugitive trio from a pursuing robot. “Don’t worry, it can’t get in,” Jailbreak helpfully notes. “It’s illegal malware and this app is secure.” At the climax, a Twitter bird comes to the rescue.

Emily Yoshida of New York Magazine’s Vulture, described the film as “one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen, much less one ostensibly made for children,” and critiqued:

There is a mumbled, shorthand moral about staying true to yourself in all this, but it is drowned out by the wall-to-wall cynicism that is The Emoji Movie’s entire reason for existing in the first place. The film runs through its list of corporate and Zeitgeist awareness obligations in dead-eyed lockstep, making sure to get in uses of the words “slay” and “shade” and lifting an entire section of the lyrics to Rihanna’s “Diamonds” to telegraph a would-be important emotional beat (it’s not a joke, I don’t think). In the end, Meh’s embrace of his animated, multifaceted self just comes off as an ad for an Emoji Movie animated-sticker set that’s probably already out there.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Charles Bramesco in The Guardian called the film “a force of insidious evil,” adding that “the best commercials have a way of making you forget you’re being pitched at, but director Tony Leondis leaves all the notes received from his brand partners in full view.” He also felt that “any social commentary is stymied by the execution,” and that “the film’s insistent feel-goodery and occasional nods to feminism ring false,” pointing to one particular scene:

The ruthless mercenary details take the Emoji Movie beyond simply embarrassing and incompetent into something more manipulative and contemptible. One perplexing scene finds the emoji pals all doing a synchronised dance called “the emoji bop”. In a film so desperate to sell itself, this is clearly a craven bid to go viral, the cinematic equivalent of clickbait. The script practically begs for the approval of the tweens that elevated the lowly emoji to phenomenon status, but has only the slightest notion how they talk or act.

Glenn Kenny of the New York Times was one of the few to also comment on Genndy Tartakovsky’s short Puppy that screens before Emoji. Kenny had the same opinion of both—idiotic:

For a long time, Hollywood has been propagating the idea that the panderingly, trendily idiotic can be made to seem less so, by polishing it up with bright shiny gloss and enlisting engaging talented performers and writers. I can’t be entirely certain of this, but I would say The Emoji Movie takes this notion to the outer limits of credibility. The voice cast is full of name actors, some of whom have genuine appeal. One of the screenwriters is the very astute Mike White. This movie’s “believe in yourself” message is borne out, in a perverse way, by the very fact that it even exists. And yet the whole thing remains nakedly idiotic. To add to the pain and despair of the experience, The Emoji Movie is preceded by a short, Puppy, featuring the characters from the Hotel Transylvania animated movies. It is also idiotic.

If you’re thinking that professional reviewers might be just a little bit jaded and not in touch with mainstream tastes, you’re probably right, but it’s worth noting that reactions to Emoji Movie from online film fans and vloggers is even worse. Here’s some choice cuts from the Youtube review circuit:

“I don’t think my expression changed from mildly disgusted the entire time.

“It has no soul within it. It has no real auteur voice other than Sony and having money. It’s almost like if God didn’t exist, and money was the only thing that mattered, then an Emoji Movie would be the embodiment of that kind of a society.”

“Sony has gone and made the most unnecessary movie I’ve seen in years.”

“I was supposed to bring my daughter and I was so glad I didn’t…every joke is lazy. It’s just a movie that doesn’t even really try.”

  • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

    This may be a hit for Sony, but for all the wrong reasons it seems. This sounds like the Foodfight of 2017, it could have been good, but all anyone cared about was money.

    • Marc Hendry

      Foodfight from an experienced company that should know better

  • Andres Molina

    The saddest part of it all is, as someone told me, even the most ridiculous and most stupid premises can make the most incredible films, its all about execution. Too bad it never occurred to them this.

  • NYC film critic

    This is a direct example of what happens when Dreamworks executives spread into other animation studios and then hire their “friends” to direct movies. Anthony Leondis (the film’s director) was reported getting 1 million dollars for this awful premise in a bidding war! When are the smaller animation studios going to wise up and the lesson that designing movies strickly on instant gratification is insulting to audiences and painful for its’ crew to work on… oh but that would take vision wouldn’t it? Shame on you Sony. Shame on you!! Let this be an example of what not to do ever again.

    • akear

      Katzenberg has poisoned the entire Dreamworks empire. Even though he is gone the rot remains. He really started this whole mess. He is also a serial outsourcer that has decimated the American VFX industry.

      DreamWorks is now known for producing pure crap.

  • Watch this movie outgross Kubo. Absolutely disgusting.

    • AnimatedMadness

      You must be joking…

    • Chicken McPhee

      Opening weekend
      Emoji – $25.6M
      Kubo – $12.6M

      Now it’s up to the producers to figure out they don’t have to commit absolute crap to screen and can make money at the same time, and how to do it. The only problem is that they apparently don’t have much to say.

      • C.J. O’Dell

        Luckily, Dunkirk stayed at #1 last weekend and this movie fell 51% this weekend, so maybe there is hope for moviegoers after all.

  • Is anyone really surprised?

    This is what you get when you take a mid-level Dreamworks “Creative Executive” and let them run free in the wilderness of Sony Pictures Imageworks.

    • Inkan1969

      I’m a huge fan of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. That movie had a unique pacing and plotting, unexpected characterizations, and a sharper sense of humor in contrast to every over major studio. I really thought Sony was going to a great future after that movie.

      • Fluffydips

        It’s all Amy Pascal and the executives at Sony’s fault. They send unreasonable notes to make Sony Animation films sell better. They’ve only made bad choices and put mediocre people from other bad studios in charge.

        • Inkan1969

          I see now.

        • Maciek

          You know apparently it’s Amy Pascal’s fault that will never going to see Genndy Tartakovsky’s Popeye. That was his passion project, his destiny to make that movie. The test footage was amazing but and this is a big BUT Amy Pascal saw this from a commercial point of view and she wanted the film to be “modernized” while Tartakovsky wanted the old-fashioned take on the character. So he quit from the film and later go on to do Can You Imagine ? but that was cancelled too . Let’s just face it Amy Pascal doesn’t give a fuck about anything.

          • RCooke

            An interesting, if I’ll informed and not true theory based on nothing but hearsay.

        • mashed potato

          Lemme guess, like the retake notes Food Fight animators would get, in the vein of “Make it 33.4% cooler” or “make this scene more action-y”.

      • Tony

        That was due to directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were basically given free rein to make the movie as they pleased. Unfortunately, that was the last time Sony let anyone do that. Lord and Miller then went to do the LEGO movie at Warners instead.

        • in the know

          Nope. They did not have free rein. Up to that point, Miller and Lord had only produced a canceled tv show (CLONE HIGH) and written a few episodes of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. They didn’t have anything close to free rein.

          They butted heads constantly with Bob Osher who by all accounts was a nightmare to work with.

      • Ben F

        my buddies and I saw “Cloudy” when we were in animation school. It just, energized all of us and we came out quoting the movie and digging for concept art. We all thought, damn, it might actually be fun to work for Sony Animation.

        • Inkan1969

          Yeah, what happened?

          • Ben F

            Phil Lord and Chris Miller were lined up to be like a “Pixar brainstrust” for Sony Animation, then didnt they have a falling out and went on to do the Lego Movie and basically started running that whole deal?

    • in the know

      Please stop with the armchair quarterbacking. You have no clue as to what is actually going on at Sony. Contrary to the various comments/ criticism, Kristine is incredibly competent. She produced both HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and CROODS while at DW and has been amazingly supportive of new ideas and original projects at Sony. I know because I’m actually working on one of those new projects.

      Great things are coming. Trust me. Genndy has been given an incredible amount of control over the new HT3 film. Mike Rianda’s project is bold, original and hilarious. The animated Spidey project? You’ve never seen anything like it. And the project I’m working on… let’s just say I’m having a blast.

      Time will tell if all these projects realize their full potential, but Kristine is a big part of why the future slate is shaping up to be pretty damn cool.

      • Awesome Waffles

        What’s this about the Spidey animated movie?

      • Cog

        RE: Genndy. I wouldn’t call it an ‘incredible’ amount of control, more like ‘appropriate’ amount of control. HT2 should not be considered the bar by a long shot.

    • cetrata

      She helped with how to train your dragon. THat alone deserves a ton of respect.

  • Elsi Pote

    Well boys, time to let it out on the emoji movie. Else you can get banned from CB for half the flak this trainwreck is getting.

  • Inkan1969

    It’s actually #1 at the box office. I’m shocked. I really thought it would fade to obscurity the way “Smurfs: the Lost Village” did.

    • vic

      I’m positive it’s everyone hearing the bad press and going to watch it ironically.

      • Mary

        Yeah. If you say a movie is bad, people will want to watch it. Even if it’s THAT bad.
        At least that’s what I believe.

      • Inkan1969

        I admit that this the reason I still watch the “Powerpuff Girls” reboot.

    • KW

      Its not number one. Its behind Dunkirk which is still first into its 2nd weekend.

  • Inkan1969
  • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

    Watch Animat’s review on August 4th, it’ll be fun.

    • cetrata

      Probably a 1/10 with the seal of garbage.

  • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

    They are saying it might beat out Dunkirk this weekend.

  • Fluffydips

    I saw it, it wasn’t 6% bad but still pretty bad. The animation industry needs to try harder, including Sony Pictures Animation. Can we move on to new styles, new morals, maybe some new types of stories? They need to treat animation higher. There’s so much you can do with the art form and we’re wasting it on crappy emoji movies. Let’s move on and stop giving hacks who don’t care about the art form chances to make horrendous animated features.

    • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

      I’m a firm believer that you can make a good movie based on some of the most ridiculous concepts. I do think there is a way to make a good Emoji movie, with the right writers behind it and an actual drive to make it other than money.

      • Fried

        The way to make Emoji Movie good would’ve been to make them Emoji Shorts instead, that are 1 – 5 minutes long with just simple, cartoony slapstick and wordplay. It’s usually possible to execute any idea, but it’s not possible to execute them all in every format/medium. Some ideas are better as movies, shorts, animation, live-action, etc.

        • Netko

          This. Though I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that there’s a bunch of such animated shorts out already since emojis have been put onto everything already.

          • GW

            There are similarly minimalistic works. Who knows what’s on the web these days but the tv series Jot is the closest I’ve seen. There are other works with symbols and shapes like The Adventures of an * and The Dot and the Line. There is also plenty of cartoon characters with headbodies like the pigs in The Angry Birds Movie.

      • KW

        No…there is no way an Emoji movie could ever be made well. The ONLY conceivable way a movie about emoji’s could be could is if all the emojis are destroyed in the first 5 seconds of the movie and then it moves on to a completely different story with different characters. This is a soulless corporate money grab using some of the lamest subject matter in history, and as long as emojis are involved it could never be good.

        • Benjamin Juandy

          By that logic we should be ritualistically flagellating The Lego Movie. While none of us know what happened, it looks like the movie’s sponsors got the better of the negotiations and dictated how their products should be presented in the movie ie an advertisement. No concept is without merit, but the business decisions at Sony made it so that the studio went the safe, stagnant route.

    • akear

      How about a frosted flakes movie. Tony the tiger would make a great full length cartoon star.

  • Mill MitMan

    This movie might get a sequel and a tv show.

  • Aaron Sawtelle

    Now you people realize that Angry Birds is much more better. All of you critics must write an apology letter to The Angry Birds Movie.

    • RCooke

      Sorry, no. Emoji was a BAD movie. Angry Birds was just a lazy one. Both were, sadly, characterless.

    • KW

      You can have two awful movies exist at the same time. We’re not allowed only one bad animated film a year. The people that should be apologizing are the ones that made these two piles of crap.

  • Landon Kemp

    I was expecting a good amount of hate, but this much? Not really. It seems like this movie pleased nobody, much like what happened with Norm Of The North.

  • Sean Minecraft Gaming

    I accually liked the emoji movie

    • Josh Evans

      Get out.

  • Senator John McCain gave a thumbs down to the repeal of ObamaCare…and The Emoji Movie.

    • 9+10=21

      The emoji movie has 4x more dislikes than likes and that is a LOT of dislikes

  • akear

    One thing it probably has in common with other superior animated films was that it was probably not made in America.

    • In Canada, actually. Those tax breaks, tho

      • akear

        There is most likely more VFX talent in the US, but that will change as outsourcing continues. American studios are basically training Canadians.

        Hollywood and America are losing the ability to entertain the world. Entertainment used to be an American strong point.

    • Josh Evans

      You’ll find most animated AND live action films are made, in large part, in Canada.

      • akear

        America is becoming a super power that does not really produce anything. Only in America would the design team that won the Oscar for PI get rewarded by being outsourced. There seems to be a deliberate effort to destroy the creative arts in America.

        • Josh Evans

          It’s so true. I’ve worked in the industry since 2013, so I’m still a baby, and I’ve never had the chance to work in the states…my home country.

  • This is it. It seems like the movie’s making a lot of money, because everyone hates it. so they gotta see it. Well that’s fecking great – a signal to the producers to make more shit like this. why the hell would anyone want to see this?
    if you think it’s a bad movie, don’t go see it. producers look at numbers, they don’t care about critics. the audience is to blame here. please don’t support this, or we will get even more of this dreck.

  • Some Guy

    In a perfect world, we got Popeye instead.

    This isn’t that perfect world, and that’s a shame.

  • Thalesourus

    So I guess we now know what the pop culture nadir is. Hopefully the only way to go is up from here is up.

    • jjstarA113

      So what you’re saying is Pixar should make Up 2?

  • Cheese

    It’s a lot more entertaining reading negative comments about this movie on Rotten Tomatoes. It has Emoji jokes that I find it very funny.

    Anyways, if the movie like this is so bad, then one negative critic should call it “M. O. G.”

    M: Moronic
    O: Outdated
    G: Gross (Poopy Emoji)

  • Too Many Cooks

    Congrats to Jim for making it on CB!

  • Who Hated ‘The Emoji Movie’ The Most??? I’ll tell you who…..

    The people that really cared about and fully respect the animation industry.

    That’s who.

  • mashed potato

    This will be successful enough that it’ll generate a spiritual sequel following that era’s contemporary trends, probably 2 year’s from now, because Emoji’s dated the day it was conceived.

    I’m calling it: It’ll be about Stickers, advanced-level emoji. Maybe have something to do with VR. Don’t just watch the emoji, BE the Emoji, be meh-y, be poopy.

    … I have nothing else to add to this conversation, that this movie isn’t dead on arrival has sapped my goodwill reserves. Fetch me some whiskey, Jeeves, time to thin the braincell herds.

  • Der Langhaarige

    As bad as the movie seems to be, those thumbnails of the YouTube reviews annoyed the heck out of me, to the point of real anger for some reason. And I haven’t even watched the videos! Just the thumbnails! Why would anybody click on a video with such an unappealing and uninviting “cover”. I guess I’m old and out of touch.

  • Harry Bastard

    Wow, so…pretty much a pan, eh. Huh.

  • KW

    I can’t believe there were actually people here trying to defend this movie when it was first announced. “You never know, it could be good”. How could anyone honestly truly think this would be a good movie?

  • Inkan1969

    I really think this is all because of the Poop Emoji.

    When this idea was first announced people did roll their eyes in astonishment that anyone would try this idea. But I think at that point people would’ve then shrugged the movie off as another mediocre kids movie bound for obscurity. Then the Poop Emoji appeared in the promos, and I noticed that people started sounding really ticked off at this project.

  • The Red Flash

    “besides the incompetence of Sony animation president Kristine Belson”
    Once again, the “writers” of these articles continue to insult studios and people they don’t like.

    This is why I stopped reading this site long ago.

    • Josh Evans

      This kind of industry honesty is the reason I still read this site.
      Curious that you stopped reading a long time ago yet still apparently read enough to grab that quote and comment on it. You keep ‘not reading’. ;)

  • KW

    no, its still emojis and one Sausage Party is enough to last us a while.

    • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

      I want more than one Sausage Party.

      • KW

        As in an adult animated film? Yeah sure. But a sequel, no.

        • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

          Why not a sequel? They may actually do one with the way the first one ended.

  • Nomenclator

    But regardless of the critics, The Lego Movie was here widely praised and recommended and it was also a big pile of garbage. What is next, the Haribo Gummy Candy Movie? I can’t believe the poor state of the animation industry. Great, excellent artists working on the worst stories ever.

  • Abdullah Zubair

    Y’all arguing about who hated EMoji movie more while I’m thinking how in the world did Yugioh get that low of a rating..?? Seemed fine to me

  • Miles

    This makes Sir Bili, which is probably the worst complete modern animated film I’ve ever seen, look passable.

  • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

    I could think of more…

  • ranting-barbarian

    A drama documentary thing showing how it was made and the backlash she faced, how she lost her boyfriend because everyone was making fun of her and how she is now content that the fame died down and she can bask in all that cash