I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
Published September 11th 2017
The Secret Life of Emojis
When I heard there was going to be a movie about emojis, my first reaction was cynical. I'm a technological 'slow adopter', so I'm not exactly the film's target market. I am a parent though and when presented with the opportunity to attend a family preview of The Emoji Movie at HOYTS Entertainment Quarter, I jumped at it, with a four and a ten-year-old in tow. The kids had a great afternoon, transfixed by the colourful, fast-paced, animated imagining of the world inside a smartphone.
HOYTS Entertainment Quarter hosted a special family preview screening
I'm wondering why someone hasn't made this movie sooner. It's the fad movie of the smartphone age and though targeted towards kids, I could see any Gen Y-er appreciating the film's digital landscape, the in-jokes on 'text-speak' and the satire on Facebook popularity.
Sony Pictures Animation no doubt have another hit on their hands and a sure-fire school holiday favourite. It's not because it is the studio's best, or funniest offering but it tackles a contemporary, novelty concept:- what goes on inside the digital world of a smartphone. Everyone who has messaged, emoji'd, Facebooked, Instagrammed or accessed the 'Cloud', will surely be curious.
Having written a book about poo, this is the reviewer's favourite emoji
Set in the imaginary messaging App of Textopolis, a colourful cast of popular emojis live and work every day, limited to displaying one emotion or graphic. It's a competitive world of the 'in' and 'out' emojis, led by the smiley-face emoji, whose job is to keep tight rein on her 'workforce'. Into this landscape comes Gene, who has been bred by his parents to play the role of the 'meh' (or non-plussed) emoji but he struggles to contain his exuberance and has a special talent for expressing different emotions. Though Gene wants to be like every other mono-faced emoji, his individuality unexpectedly leads Textopolis into the danger of being deleted from the phone forever. He must embark on a brave journey through the maze of the phone's Apps, aided only by the insecure 'Hi-5' and the cynical 'Jailbreak' emojis. Will they make it to the 'Cloud' safely and prevent the annihilation of their world?
The Emoji Movie features a huge, colourful, recognisable cast of characters
Director and co-screenwriter Tony Leondis, of Igor and Lilo and Stitch 2-fame, has brought together an all-star cast of seasoned animated voice artists, starring the omnipresent animated heroine, Anna Faris, (Jailbreak), man-of-the-moment James Corden (Hi-5) and T.J. Miller, playing the central character of Gene. The central characters are ably supported by a supporting cast including comedienne Jennifer Coolidge playing Gene's mum and Sofia Vergara, a slightly typecast, Latin Tango emoji. And special mention goes to Sir Patrick Stewart, lending the Poop emoji an unexpected gravitas, as only he could do.
The film has a clever premise but it is 2-dimensional, based on in-jokes about emojis and smartphone Apps and their users. The director seems aware of these limitations though and does his best to keep the film short and sweet (86mins), appealing to the animated formula of colour, humour, action and a great pop soundtrack. With the film's plentiful eye candy, it is easy to overlook it's faults and if you're a parent, you'll no doubt appreciate the satirisation of the younger tech-obsessed generation.
What is not so great about the film?
The Emoji Movie sets itself up as a comedy from the start, with some initially humorous jokes and characterisations, while the novelty of the idea remains fresh. Unfortunately, the laugh-a-minute nature is not sustained, even for the youngsters in the audience and the comic timing of the film's best comedians like Coolidge and Corden, often falls flat with gags that miss the mark. The scope of the plot is also limited, relying on easy wins and scene fillers like the choreographed dance routine in the Just Dance Now App. Pure fluff!
The film's lead character Gene (the 'meh' emoji) is sure to be a fan and merchandising favourite
I wouldn't rate The Emoji Movie as a must-see film but with clever marketing and merchandising and the novelty factor for the smartphone generation, it is easy to see it being successful. It's colourful and light-hearted with some nice messages for kids about friendship, loyalty and individuality and a smartly imagined digital world. A good one for the school holidays and fun for kids and parents alike, without pretending to be anything more than it is – a fad movie of its time.