The Emoji Movie
dir Tony Leondis
prd Michelle Raimo Kouyate
scr Tony Leondis, Eric Siegel, Mike White
voices TJ Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Wright, Patrick Stewart, Sean Hayes, Jake T Austin, Christina Aguilera, Sofia Vergara, Rachael Ray
release US 28.Jul.17, UK 2.Aug.17
17/US Sony 1h26
The Emoji Movie
Express yourself: Meh, Pizza and Poop

miller cordon faris
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The Emoji Movie There's the odd smart verbal and visual gag in this busy, colourful animated adventure, but a painfully obvious script and badly overworked design leave everything feeling a bit desperate. The point is that perhaps they should have come up with a good story first, then adapted it to emojis, rather than trying to contrive something out of a pictogram alphabet.

Inside the phone of a teenager (Austin), the emojis have an elaborate society. But Gene (Miller) is struggling to be as "meh" as his parents (Coolidge and Wright). Too expressive for his own good, he's now being chased by killer bots who do the bidding of grinning-but-vicious leader Smiler (Rudolph). Together with the unloved Hi-5 (Cordon), Gene escapes the app in search of Jailbreak (Faris), a hacker who may be able to fix him. But his parents and Smiler's bots are in hot pursuit as they try to escape to the cloud.

Frankly, the plot is irrelevant in a movie like this. The most important thing is to maintain a sense of inventive visuals and lively characters who operate within the world's own logic (as in the similar Wreck-It Ralph). But there's very little coherence here, as most set pieces feel merely like product placement for a variety of apps. And most of the sequences drag on far too long, putting our heroes into yet another kind of peril as these bots try to violently delete them.

Miller and Cordon have some fun with their vocal performances, throwing in goofy improvisations and little character quirks. Faris makes Jailbreak surprisingly likeable, despite her cliched design and trite character arc. Rudolph never gets to do much with her one-note villain, but Coolidge and Wright remain amusing simply because they're working so hard to keep their voices as flat as possible. And Stewart and Hayes add some sparky non sequiturs as Poop and Devil, respectively.

So it's a shame the dialog is so dull. Conversations continually explain phone concepts while neglecting characterisation. There are witty references to hieroglyphics and emoticons, but the filmmakers never have much fun with them. There's a climactic swell of unearned sentimentality and be yourself preachiness. And many settings feature cliched computery backdrops that are flatly dull (including streaming depicted as a stream and a firewall as a wall of fire). What's missing is a sense of anarchic humour and a story and characters that have a life of their own.

cert u themes, violence 30.Jul.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall