The Emoji Movie is Heavy on Punny but not on Funny

I was looking forward to The Emoji Movie. It was supposed to be Sony’s answer to Toy Story, but when they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this knock-off has some unfortunately glitches.

One of the main problems is that the story never fully develops. You have your three main emjois who are either trying to become popular, normalized or runaway, while the side story of the kid, who’s phone it is, is crushing on a girl and Gene’s (TJ Miller) parents are trying to protect their son.

The lead story follows Gene a Meh emoji who’s only job is to be completely indifferent. Unfortunately, Gene has an array of emotions, which doesn’t sit well with Smiler (Maya Rudolph), who is always happy in seeking conformity. When Gene’s glitch is discovered, Smiler wants to have him erased so that the phone doesn’t get reset. In the process Hi-5 (James Corden) has lost his place on the favorites list and wants nothing more than to be adored in one of the top spots again.

Hi-5 gets the bright idea of finding a hacker who will fix Gene, returning him to a one dimensional Meh emoji and get Hi-5 into one of his top spots. Enter Jailbreak (Aana Faris), the hacker who wants nothing more than to enter The Cloud and be free to whomever she choose to be by her own volition and not the stereotypes placed on her real emoji character.

As fantastic as the animation is, the movie is an adult perspective on what teens go through and none of the jokes land on the kids the movie is intended for. What Hollywood cannot let go of is the stunt casting that has been in use for well over 30 years, starting with Transformers: The Movie and should have ended with Shrek. No one goes to an animated feature to hear James Corden if he’s not singing. There are hundreds of qualified voice actors that would have worked for a fraction of the cost of this film. Sony could have easily cast David Vincent, Phil LaMarr, Kari Wahlgren or Katie Leigh, just to name a few, which would have pulled us out of the flick to play, “Guess the voice.”

Disney learned this lesson rather quickly as most of their Disney Animation and Pixar films use voice actors with minimal stunt casting. Once Sony and everyone else realizes that story sells tickets and celebrity is secondary in animation, only then will these features be able to compete with the mouse.

The Emoji Movie is out Friday, July 28, 2017.

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