The Emoji Movie: Film Review
Voice cast: TJ Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Steven Wright, Maya Rudolph
Director: Tony Leondis
In theory, it's easy to understand why The Emoji Movie has been hailed as the second cimematic coming of the Anti-Christ.
Set inside a smart phone and with a plethora of product placement (Spotify, Katy Perry, Instagram) it's fair to say that perhaps the film's vision is more on the merchandise than the execution of the story.
Talking of which, The Emoji Movie centres on Meh emoji Gene (voiced with usual laconic deadpan by former Silicon Valley star TJ Miller) who's eager to impress on the first day on the job.
Gene is one of those who lives in Textopolis, a digital city inside their user Alex's phone. Despite being pigeonholed as a Meh, he can make plenty of other faces and frequently does so.
But by breaking out his panicked faces when Alex chooses to send his crush an emoji, Gene threatens the future of Textopolis as Alex plans to wipe his phone.
Facing persecution as a malfunction by the ruthless smiler icon (Rudolph), Gene begins a journey of discovery across the phone to ensure his future survival.
It's easy to be cynical about The Emoji Movie, a corporate by-the-numbers animation that reeks more of potential downloads than sizzling script or witty moments.
In fairness, it's actually a solid animation that squanders both its Inside Out bastardisation and its chance to mock and meta-comment on its premise.
However, there are a few moments which garner laughs.
From the mocking the elderly emoticons to ripping in to Facebook's popularity algorithm, there are some moments which really engender you to the film, but ultimately leave you wishing it could have been much more subversive than it actually is.
But that's the problem with The Emoji Movie - its tone is so bland that despite the solid animated work and the great voice cast (James Corden as the formerly popular Hi-5 emoji brings much energy and chutzpah to the digital table and it's a thrill to hear Steven Wright's weary tones on the screen as Gene's father), nothing ever really soars as it should and many scenes end in flatness.
Piling on product placement like Candy Crush and Just Dance does nothing to endear the film too - and while youngsters may get a sugar rush from the overload of products and apps that they force their parents to buy, it's hard to justify any reaction other than that of Gene's stock and trade to the Emoji Movie.