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.”

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