Can you build a whole animated feature about emojis living inside the smartphone of a teen named Alex (Jake T. Austin)? It’s a stretch. But The Emoji Movie, expected to kill at the box-office and be killed by critics, has a few tricks up its animated sleeve. Before the jacked-up antics get to be too much, director Tony Leondis and co-writers Erich Siegel and Mike White get in a few satiric licks at a technology we’ve all come to call home.
The plot? It spins around Gene (voiced with twisted mischief by T.J. Miller), a Meh emoji who breaks the cardinal emoji rule – he can’t be just one thing. Poop, an emoji voiced by Patrick Stewart in a joke that keeps on giving, is OK with being a real shit. And Smiler (Maya Rudolph) pushes perky so far you want to select her emoji and hit Access Denied. Meh, a huge disappointment to his parents – Mel Meh (Steven Wright) and Mary Meh (Jennifer Coolidge) – continues his crusade for variety.
The movie, sadly, settles for more of the same caffeinated nonsense as Meh goes off with his best friends, Hi-5 (James Corden, working really hard for every laugh) and Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to penetrate Alex’s firewall (literal fire as imagined here) and get his code rewritten before he’s deleted. You can’t knock a kiddie ride that insists there are multitudes in all of us. Or maybe you can. But there’s no emoji for it.