I Watched ‘The Emoji Movie,’ So You Don’t Have To

When I first heard this movie was coming out, I thought, well, sure. Of course. And it will be a monstrosity. It’s nothing more than a money grab. But I’d said the same about The Lego Movie. That sounded like a quick easy way for the studio to make a buck and then to really cash in on merchandising. What they made was a good little film that left audiences feeling upbeat. Sometimes, that’s what you need from a movie.

And then there’s Pile of Poo on Apple  like this. I’m not asking for Citizen Kane, but the filmmaker’s could have spent a moment more on social commentary or little nods to the parents being dragged along to this frenzied technicolor-fest. Or they could have made, I don’t know, a single decent joke in the whole of the film. They chose not to.

So let’s follow along:

Our protagonist, the “meh” face emoji (who is named Gene), has a problem. He wants to show emotion, but is doomed to be “blasé” about everything. And when he’s not, the other emoji are mildly annoyed. The horror.

But wait! Quick break to remind you that Sir Patrick Stewart is actually in this movie, playing the emoji-ment of poop, when they could have cast him as the live long and prosper sign. And we’re back.

Speaking of hands, the hand emojis are all characters themselves, and they all have faces. It’s terrifying.

But right off the bat, I have some questions. Apparently, the emoji have offspring, and they all give birth(?!) to the same emoji, rather than hybrids. Like, a “meh” and a “meh” have a “meh.” Instead of a “happy” and an “annoyed.” So there are multiples of all the emojis. Why? And then, Gene is really nervous, because it’s his first day on the job (we know this because we’re told so, despite his being well known in the town). But their faces all look the same. How do they know who they are when they aren’t making their assigned face? They’re IDENTICAL.

And then the kid whose phone the emojis all live in tries to use the “meh” face (Gene), and Gene is so nervous, he makes a weird face. Could these stakes be any lower? But wait! Gene becomes labeled as a “malfunction.”

The “smile” emoji sends the anti-virus team after Gene (um, fair enough. There’s a problem with the technology). He narrowly escapes by…leaving the room, and teams up with “high five” emoji, and they head off to get “reprogrammed.” Also, the high five emoji is just named High Five, unlike the “meh” emoji, who gets a name.

Side note: there’s this recurring thing where the hands can make it look like they have abs, and it really grosses me out. Other than that, I’m mostly bored.

There’s an hour left.

Anyway, Gene’s parents decide to go looking for him (okay, movie. I will give you points for casting Steven Wright as Pa “meh”).

Then there’s this scene where they go into the…um, I don’t know what to call it. We’ll go with Bad Boy app. The phone they’re on has an app disguised as a dictionary, where the kid stores all the secret stuff he doesn’t want anyone to see. This movie gets super sketchy really fast. And here we learn that the screenwriter doesn’t know what internet trolls are, and has only heard about them from the teens sitting at the Starbucks table next to him, where he was writing this Pile of Poo on Apple . And you can tell this is a rough area, because the music playing is, get ready for this, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister.

So far, the most amusing thing about this movie is how many emotions the “meh” emoji conjures up, when the only emotion I can manage is “meh.”

Then they meet this hacker girl, who’s supposed to be able to reprogram them. I’m entirely unclear on what she’s supposed to be. She’s not an emoji? So what is she? She looks like an emoji, except her color is a little subtler than Gene’s.

I’ll be honest I watched this movie in increments: Break 1.

'The Emoji Movie' Named Worst Picture At The Razzies


*sigh* And we’re back.

Candy Crush! That’s an app! 😒 I feel like I’m supposed to be impressed simply because I recognize this. It’s just lazy writing! And we get it. High Five likes candy. Can we please move on with our lives? He isn’t even making jokes, he’s just really animated. And it’s an animated film. He can’t help it.

Kitten video for the win! Thank you movie. I needed that, so I wouldn’t smash my head through the TV just to end this.

Note to everyone: eating food you’ve thrown up is just gross. Not funny or cute. Disgusting.

And now there’s a dance app. Here’s the thing, watching real people dance is impressive. Watching animated emoji dance is not. And, oh, God, no! They use “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! That song is my personal curse. Ask anyone. It’s a malevolent little ear worm.


And then High Five appears to have died. I feel nothing. I’m rooting for the kid to get his phone wiped by the tech support people.

And again the movie decides to illustrate exactly what an internet troll is not.

Also, the smiley emoji seems to think that if she can erase the malfunctioning Gene, the other emoji will be safe from the phone being reset. That kid has an appointment, and his phone’s been acting weird for awhile now. Even if it’s normal for 5 minutes, he’s gonna get it reset.

We’ve reached the firewall. I’m taking Break 2.

Image result for emoji movie gene

Me too, dude.

This is good example of a wasted opportunity. Give us a little suspense and humor. Maybe THIS password will work. Explosion. Pause. Gene: did it work? But no, we just get a series of faces that we see on our phone every day.

This is the point when I realized just how easily they could have gone with the Inside Out route and made us care about the real kid in the real world, but he’s featured so little that it’s hard to care much what happens to him.

So Gene is rebuffed by the princess and feels “meh.” I guess…problem solved?

Gene voluntarily goes back to headquarters at the end, making the plot line of the parents looking for him entirely pointless. At this point, I was actually angry.

Of course we’re treated to an obligatory montage to remind us all just how boring this movie really was, as the phone gets erased. REALLY SLOWLY.

But Gene sends himself as an animated emoji to the girl the main kid has a crush on in a last ditch effort not to be erased, despite the fact that Gene’s parents, High Five, and the entire town have already been deleted. And the girl comes up to the boy, because luckily she happens to be in the same phone store (who hangs out in a phone store?) and says, “I like that you’re one of those guys that can actually express his feelings.”…By sending an emoji? REALLY?! THAT’S, LIKE, THE OPPOSITE.

So the boy stops the phone erasure, just before Gene is deleted. AND EVERYTHING THAT WAS ERASED JUST COMES BACK.

And it’s an animated kid’s movie, so there has to be another dance. At least it’s over.

Unfortunately, I was glaring through the credits when I discovered Mike White wrote on this. Why is it so terrible? Although he’s one of three writers, so I don’t know how much input he actually had.

In summation, this movie isn’t even amusingly bad, like I thought it would be. You’d get as much entertainment by scrolling through the emojis on your phone. It’s just bad. In the now immortalized characterization by Patrick Stewart: Pile of Poo on Apple .


About Risa Romano

Writer type thing. I work on stories for kids when I'm on the clock and screenplays quite a bit less for kids when I'm not. I have a blog: rambleonnerdyponderings.wordpress.com I'm also the creator and moderator of the Doctor Who vodcast/podcast A Disused Yeti: https://adisusedyeti.wordpress.com/
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