Where do I begin with the Emoji Movie? From the time that it was first introduced as a thing, a thing that would be thrown lots of money by important people to get made, it was unanimously panned by all as a terrible idea. My esteemed colleague Marlon McDonald even proposed several alternative subjects that would be more entertaining than a movie about emojis, not least Bread: The Movie. However, despite our pleas, it got made and I went to see it :(
The plot of this miserable pile of poo emoji focuses on Gene, a young "meh" emoji who just can't seem to keep the same face on all day, every day. Basically, Textopolis is some sort of fascist republic in which its citizens are only allowed to demonstrate one emotion, and if they don't they are immediately shunned and outed to the authorities who try to literally exterminate them. Yeah.
Using your typical fail-safe plot solution (young outcast goes on journey of self-reformation, only to find out that he is lovable just as he is — and he gets the girl and saves the world too), the Emoji Movie contains approximately less than .5 oz of originality (all owed to Maya Rudolph's Smiler and the occasional joke that doesn't fall flat on its round, yellow face). Our lovable outcast Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller. Why, T.J., WHY?!) has to find a way to fix his "malfunction" before he is erased by the actually terrifying Smiler (Maya Rudolph); so he teams up with your typical comical side-kick, Hi-5 (James Corden), to find the mysterious hacker Jailbreak (Anna Faris). To do this, they have to travel outside of their app, wandering through the Inside Out-like corridors of Alex's phone until they find her.
Unfortunately, a brazenly unoriginal plot is the least of our worries because the Emoji Movie's product placement is out. of. control. Just to give you a few examples, they have to play a full game of Candy Crush (because those incessant Facebook invites aren't enough), ride a wave of music in Spotify, fly away on the Twitter bird, and extol the virtues of Dropbox, all while mentioning each app name at least five times to make sure you and your children spend that sweet $$ as soon as the movie's over (or during, because it's essentially one huge ad so who cares about following the plot).
It's clear by just this shameless advertising alone that the Emoji Movie's goal is far from creating a timeless classic. It knows its shelf-life is limited to whenever these apps die or go out of fashion, so it's pretty much abandoned all attempt to write a cohesive plot that actually makes sense and focus all of their budget on making these sponsoring apps look as colorful as possible.
To be fair to writers Tony Leondis and Eric Siegel, they were clearly given a terrible premise to work with and just had to make due with the obvious shortcomings of using one-emotion symbols as protagonists — plus the obvious fact that emojis are literally incapable of saving anyone's day (there's a particularly cringeworthy scene near the end that tries to put a bow on that glaring pitfall, when Gene sends the perfect emoji to Alex's crush, causing him to stop his phone resetting and get the girl simultaneously. Yes, that actually happens.). They might have been able to corral a bunch of famous voices in there (looking at you, Patrick Stewart), but that isn't enough to save this steaming pile of poo emoji.