There may be plenty of human sentiment running amok, but is there any real human connection in The Emoji Movie?
A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say.
In this day and age, the maxim has never been truer than with the rise of the emoji.
Originating in 1990s Japan, they allow us to express ourselves in a more succinct, addictive and sometimes juvenile way than we could in words – we’re looking at you, poop emoji.
And yet somehow, they’ve become the language of this generation.
This sentiment reached its zenith in 2015, when the Oxford Dictionary hailed the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji as its word of the year, and it’s a wave that director Tony Leondis is still trying to ride, two years later, with The Emoji Movie – cue our quizzical face.
Boasting a cast that includes TJ Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris and a rather tongue-in-cheek performance by Sir Patrick Stewart as ‘Poop’, the movie follows the ‘Meh’ emoji, Gene, as he struggles through an existential crisis.
In fact, he feels pretty happy – and that’s not allowed in Textopolis.
After bombing his debut appearance when real-world teen Alex tries to text the girl he likes, Gene faces deletion, so he sets off on a journey to cure his glitch.
Dubbed facile, insidious and just plain bad, it turns out not even the captain of the Starship Enterprise could steer this ill-fated film on a course of success as the movie hit the headlines recently for scoring a perfect zero – albeit temporarily – on review site rottentomatoes.com.
So, what was it that made this film miss the mark for its anticipated viewers – is it speaking the wrong language?
Not so, insists Maya Rudolph, who voices Smiler, the movie’s villainous antagonist just trying to maintain the status quo.
“Whether we realise it or not, emojis became this universal language and we all use them,” she says. “We’re strangely playing these familiar characters that were never really characters to begin with, but everyone knows,” she adds.
“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t used the smile or poop emoji – they’re in our electronic vernacular.”
Guilty as charged. But despite this appeal to our collective familiarity, we’re still not sold – even if, as Leondis says, it’s all really part of a bigger commentary on the social disconnection characteristic of our era.
“At the end of the story it’s that emojis can help us connect,” he explained to comingsoon.net. “But then after that it is about putting your phone down and really connecting with people.
“What I love about emojis in this technological age is that we found a way to reach out emotionally to other people; it really is how it helps us with the human connection, not hurts us.”
Well – are we excited for the upcoming release? To quote the movie’s central character: ‘meh’.
Also starring: Jennifer Coolidge, Stephen Wright, Christina Aguilera and Sofía Vergara
Director: Tony Leondis
Running time: 90 mins
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