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‘Emoji Movie’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

Early reviews of “The Emoji Movie” are in, and critics, to put it gently, aren’t giving the film a “Thumbs Up.”

Critics offered generally unfavorable reviews for the Tony Leondis-directed animated comedy voiced by T.J. Miller, James Corden, and Anna Faris. Hitting theaters Friday, “Emoji” is currently averaging a concerning 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The reviews collectively called the movie “meh,” a nod to Miller’s character, and panned the pointless and seemingly unrelated plot. Others called out the unnecessary product integration with Spotify, Candy Crush, and Crackle (owned by the film’s distributor, Sony).

Here’s what the critics are saying:

Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman:

“The bad news is that ‘The Emoji Movie’ really is meh. There have been worse ideas, but in this case the execution isn’t good enough to bring the notion of an emoji movie to funky, surprising life. It’s obvious within 20 minutes that ‘The Emoji Movie’ is going to be a knockoff of ‘Inside Out,’ with the world of Alex’s phone as the film’s intricate and looming geographical ‘brain’ (the apps are like candy-colored skyscrapers), and each emoji presented as a primal emotion. ‘Inside Out’ showed that you could work comic miracles with characters like Anger or Sadness — not by varying them all that much, but simply by lending detail and passion (and great laugh lines) to who they were.”

New York Time’s Glenn Kenny:

“For a long time, Hollywood has been propagating the idea that the panderingly, trendily idiotic can be made to seem less so, by polishing it up with bright shiny gloss and enlisting engaging talented performers and writers. I can’t be entirely certain of this, but I would say ‘The Emoji Movie’ takes this notion to the outer limits of credibility. This movie’s ‘believe in yourself’ message is borne out, in a perverse way, by the very fact that it even exists. And yet the whole thing remains nakedly idiotic.”

Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson:

“Presented with such a stinking pile of poo, what can you possibly do? You can’t review it in all emojis — that’s too easy. You can’t explore its interesting ideas about children, phones, language, and communication, because it doesn’t have any. You can’t even fully describe in words, or emojis, the frustration of seeing money blithely poured into a film that’s one massive, uncritical ad for something nearly everyone in the theater already owns, dressed up as family-friendly entertainment. All there’s left to say is that giving money to a movie like this is only going to encourage more like it. So please: Don’t do it. Stay home. Watch literally anything else. And maybe put down your phone.”

Mashable’s Josh Dickey:

“The central theme — a where-do-I-fit-in tale somewhere between ‘Wreck-it Ralph’ and ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ — is sweet and builds to a message that feels earned: People who are different are our greatest gift. It’s almost like they had an idea for a story and fit emoji to it, not the other way around. Guys. I can’t believe I’m saying this but … ‘The Emoji Movie’ isn’t terrible.”

Los Angeles Times’ Katie Walsh:

“There could be far worse ways to spend 86 minutes. But maybe, just maybe, it’d be the better choice to spend those 86 minutes outside, or reading a book, or talking face-to-face with another human being. Because ‘The Emoji Movie’ could not be more meh.”

A.V. Club’s Vadim Rizov:

“Leondis has cited ‘Toy Story’ as an inspiration, but ‘The Emoji Movie’ is more like a severely debased ‘Inside Out’ that takes place inside of a smartphone. The ‘plot’ is really an excuse to hop from one app to another; there are stops in the lands of Candy Crush, WeChat, Just Dance, Instagram, Spotify, and (for the kids!) Dropbox.”

New York Daily News’ Jordan Hoffman:

“This failed attempt to create a story from a texting trend makes the worst comic book adaptation look like Shakespeare. The script is entirely predictable despite making absolutely no sense. The only thing worse than the dialogue is the absurd product placement. In addition to ‘riding the Spotify streams’ to make it all the way across the phones, there are a few glimpses hawking Crackle, a streaming service no one uses but just so happens to be owned by the same corporate entity that is distributing the film.”

Indiewire’s David Ehrlich:

“There are so many life lessons contained within this sloppily tied knot of faux-inspirational morals that they all tend to cancel each other out. And yet, there are definitely less pleasant ways for kids to learn that self-expression is something you have to pay for, and that anyone who can’t afford a smartphone isn’t even worth acknowledging. Once upon a time, something like ‘The Emoji Movie’ would be regarded as a dire commentary on the culture that produced it. These days, the culture so consistently comments upon itself that something like ‘The Emoji Movie’ just makes you wonder what’s left to be said.”

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