The Emoji Movie

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The Emoji Movie






🚫 - Rotten Tomatoes
Genre: Comedy
Directed By: Tony Leondis
Produced By: Michelle Raimo Kouyate
Written By: Tony Leondis
Eric Siegel
Based On: Emojis
Starring: T.J. Miller
James Corden
Anna Faris
Maya Rudolph
Steven Wright
Jennifer Coolidge
Christina Aguilera
Sofía Vergara
Sean Hayes
Patrick Stewart
Photography: Color
Distributed By: Sony Pictures Releasing
Release Date: July 23, 2017 (Regency Village Theatre)
July 28, 2017 (United States)
Runtime: 86 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $50 million
Box Office: $217.8 million
"The Emoji Movie is about the "meh" emoji and how he has other expressions besides "meh." Today, I went and saw it. And... it... SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKED!!!!!"
Chris Stuckmann
Nostalgia Critic

The Emoji Movie (initially titled Emojimovie: Express Yourself[1]) is a 2017 American computer-animated science-fiction comedy film directed by Tony Leondis, written by Leondis, Eric Siegel and Mike White, produced by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. It is based on emoji faces, smileys, and graphics used in electronic messages.

The film premiered on July 23, 2017 at the Regency Village Theatre and was theatrically released in the United States on July 28, 2017.


Hidden inside a smartphone, the bustling city of Textopolis is home to all emojis. Each emoji has only one facial expression, except for Gene, an exuberant emoji with multiple expressions. Determined to become "normal" like the other emojis, Gene enlists the help of his best friend Hi-5 and a notorious code breaker called Jailbreak. During their travels through the other apps, the three emojis discover a great danger that could threaten their phone's very existence.

Why It Sucks

Warning: Do not put any pointers among the lines of "It rips off/steals elements from Wreck-It Ralph, The Lego Movie, and Inside Out" or "Sony cancelled a Popeye movie for this" (none of them are true, and are obvious lies and nitpicks) in this section.

  1. The basic concept of having a movie based on emojis is, while really not the worst concept, incredibly bland and confusing; the fact that the concept has a rather botched execution doesn't exactly help.
  2. The film feels more like an advertisement for phone apps and smartphones extended into one film, as it is overloaded with product placements from real-life phone apps, including Spotify, WeChat, Facebook, Candy Crush, YouTube, Instagram and Just Dance Now; it also tries to leech off the smartphone popular culture, even though the writers might not have done enough research about smartphone popular culture despite Sony Corporation, the parent company of Sony Pictures Animation that, therefore, owns the rights to this film, being known for their technology and Xperia smartphones.
    • On the topic of the film feeling like an advertisement for phone apps and smartphones, it is made even more blatantly obvious by Gene introducing smartphones to the audience and then describing how great emojis apparently are in the opening scene, as well as when it is being explained how to play Candy Crush after Gene, Hi-5, and Jailbreak arrive there before they begin playing the game to free Gene.
    • In an interview for the film on the official YouTube channel for Sony Pictures Animation, director Tony Leondis stated that he wanted to incorporate real-life apps into the movie[2]; while product placement can be used well in some films, it should be taken into consideration the fact that not everyone is going to like it, as some might assume they are watching an ad instead of a film.
    • On the topic of not knowing specific details, The Emoji Movie clearly knows nothing about phones (and ironically, this comes from a studio whose parent company is better known for their technology and Xperia smartphones); in the climax, when the phone is in the process of its factory reset, several apps get deleted, but after Alex unplugs the phone, the aforementioned deleted apps get restored. Upon deleting an app, it is permanently gone and there is no way of getting it back... unless you re-install it, that is.
    • What's worse is that the movie's tie-in novel had actually made up alternative names of the apps shown in the movie, or simply had not mentioned them at all, which makes you wonder why they didn't stick with those instead of the product placement shown.
      • The film also portrays teenagers as phone addicts who heavily refuse to communicate with each other aside from text messages, but instead of criticizing this problem... it encourages it.
  3. Many poor attempts at humor which often take forever to finish, with many of them coming across as either poorly-written, immature, childish, disgusting, or unfunny; one example of this is one scene where Hi-5 throws up a corn candy before putting it back into his mouth and later throwing it up again.
    • One insulting and tasteless joke in the scene at the "loser lounge" depicts a fishcake emoji who sounds like a person with a disability.
    • Many of the jokes also come across as rather stereotypical; one major example of this is in the scene with the monkey emojis in the first act, where they begin to act like, well... monkeys after their statement of how they are busy doing "monkey business".
    • Even the innuendos are scummy, particularly one shot with the elephant and dashing away emojis, which is supposed to represent how the elephant is farting.
    • Some of the jokes suffer from being on-the-nose, with one scene depicting a shrimp emoji joining his fellow shrimp emojis in a vehicle... resembling a shrimp cocktail.
    • Perhaps the most unfunny examples of humor hinge around the one emotion each non-Gene and non-Mel emoji character have to represent; for example, in the scene in the YouTube app, Mary states, "Don't blame me for this, Mel, I am hopping mad at you. See?", and she makes a more tired face rather than an angry face.
    • Hi-5 even twerks for about three seconds in the Just Dance scene, while showing his bare butt.
  4. Patrick Stewart was severely miscast as Poop, the poop emoji; apparently, Stewart himself said that his casting was meant to be a joke.
  5. The story is very predictable and formulaic, as it is about a misunderstood character who accepts oneself for who they are; it also features clichés used in other films, particularly the never-explained reveal of Mel having the same problem as his son (which feels rather rushed as an attempt to make audiences understand why Gene has this problem), alongside the fact that there is an ending where everyone dances.
    • Even Hi-5's motivation for joining Gene is generic, as he just wants to be popular among the other emojis once more.
    • Jailbreak is an obviously ripoff of Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie, in terms of personality and character design; she also shares too much in common with Olivia "Sombra" Colomar from Overwatch as both characters are notorious hackers.
  6. Almost all of the emoji characters suffer from several issues:
    • All of the non-Gene and non-Mel emojis have rather flat characterizations, as they are only supposed to feel the emotions they represent; almost every emoji character has this flaw, especially Mary, who mistreats her son for his problem.
      • The characterization is also inconsistent, as every single emoji seems to express other emotions than the one that they have to do when they are used on the phone, and as a result, the entire plot is pointless.
        • Even Smiler is inconsistently portrayed; she initially gives a "be yourself" advice to the other emojis, and later sees Gene as a malfunction as he is a multi-expressional emoji.
      • Gene Meh, the main protagonist, is an incredibly unlikable, generic and basic protagonist who wants to fit in but has something that gets in his way.
      • The romantic relationship between Gene and Jailbreak is also rather forced and bland.
      • Hi-5 is very annoying and obnoxious with regurgitating candy, adding more insult to injury, as mentioned above is a good example.
    • They also suffer from rather poor representation; Smiler is depicted as the antagonist, even though all she intended to do was to protect Textopolis from being deleted; similarly, Gene is depicted as the main protagonist, despite him being the one responsible for most of the problems that occurred to the point where he almost caused the entire phone to have its data be wiped. Basically, the film tries to force its audience to sympathize with the protagonist and to root against the villain without giving them the usual proper characterization as a reason to do this.
      • Not helping is that neither Gene nor Jailbreak show any mercy for Akiko Glitter and everyone else who was deleted from existence.
      • On the topic of sympathizing with the protagonists, it was already hard to sympathize with Hi-5, as he was already self-centered and arrogant by the time he is introduced in the film.
  7. Several scenes are rather inappropriate for a film targeted towards children, particularly when Poop nearly utters the word "shit" before it cuts away.
  8. At several points in the film-specific details in the background feel rather distracting; for example, the first scene in the film is riddled with several message bubbles which appear as the characters communicate with one another, which gets in the way of the story the film is trying to tell. Some of the details also come across as rather nonsensical, with Alex being stated to have a social security number, which is very questionable for a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school.
  9. False advertising: Despite the heavy marketing of Poop on posters and in the trailers, this character, voiced by Patrick Stewart, only gets a few lines and doesn't even gets to have an important role in the movie whatsoever.
    • On the related topic of said marketing, there was an infamous promotional image for the film on Twitter that parodied the Hulu original series The Handmaid's Tale. In the image, Smiler was depicted as being the series' main character Offred. The image (due to the themes of the aforementioned series, and the seemingly blatant misunderstanding of them) sparked controversy of the film's marketing, eventually resulting in the tweet being deleted. Even though the tweet is deleted, the damage is already done, mainly due to bad marketing.
  10. The movie completely forgets about Hi-5's subplot of becoming a favorite once more and focuses only on Gene until the end.
  11. Jailbreak claims that female emojis are being stereotyped as only princesses and brides, but it falls flat on its face upon taking into consideration there are several emojis in the film who are female, including Mary and Smiler, and yet almost none of them are princesses or brides; in fact, Smiler was even the original emoji and founder of the texting company she, Gene, and his friends, work at!
  12. The voice acting is shockingly mediocre, even for a Sony Pictures Animation film; as nearly everyone constantly underacts and sounds like as if they just want to get out of the project, except Maya Rudolph, who actually goes about overacting (see RQ#6).
  13. The film feels the apparent "need" to spout random and dated slang (even by near-late 2010s' standards), especially when Gene and Hi-5 mention "#truth" and "#blessed".
  14. Excruciating and stupid dialogue. (Example: "We're number two!")
  15. Much of the events of the film are rather pointless, as Gene, Hi-5, and Jailbreak can go around the apps rather than through them to reach their destination, and thus it would've taken much less time to get there had they gone around the apps instead. This was done just to pad out the movie's runtime.
    • What makes the story even more pointless is when it is taken into consideration that Alex will eventually decide to replace his phone with a new one.
    • Another large portion of the story, specifically the climax, is pointless since Alex does not need tech support to wipe his phone, it is more than easy to do it himself.
    • Even worse is that since Alex jailbroke his phone, his warranty would have been void, which should have prevented him from taking it to Wireless Wireless, the phone shop in the movie. This does not seem to be the case here.
  16. There are issues with the pacing, as it has a hard time maintaining a balance between the four main subplots, focusing on Gene, Alex, Smiler, and the former's parents, ultimately resulting in several scenes being either too fast or too slow; this is extremely noticeable in the climax, which happens way too quickly.
  17. Similar to Foodfight!, the film unnecessarily references Casablanca, something children would not get.
  18. The film wants its audience to believe that emojis are more important than actual words, which is a false moral; for example, in the opening scene, Gene basically mentions how, "Emojis are the most important thing in the history of communication," and Alex's friend later states, "Words aren't cool." It is also rather hypocritical, given the film was very obviously written with words.
  19. Uneven and uncanny characters designs, even for emojis standard as well, with Gene being resembling a rejection of Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.,hi 5 looking exactly like the human hand with a face and legs and Smiler always, well... literally smiling no matter what.
  20. Dated references to popular culture and Internet phenomena, specifically the music video for "PPAP (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen)" by Pikotaro briefly appearing in the scene in the YouTube app; one can also clearly hear "Watch Me" by Silento briefly playing in the background during the scene in the Spotify app.
  21. At one point the film seems to preach to feminism when Jailbreak complains about how "women are always coming up with stuff that men are taking credit for." As mentioned before, she also tells Gene that "Did you realize that in the first emoji set, a woman can either be a princess, or a bride?" for assuming that she is a stereotypical princess, which is later retconned when she calls for the Twitter bird, later on, to save Gene from getting killed.
  22. The film also features some anachronisms:
    • The Hammer emoji appears as a judge's gavel during specific scenes; it resembles Apple's original graphic for the iPhone, which changed with iOS 6 in 2012.
    • While most of the emojis in the film are part of the set standardized by Unicode, Toaster, Broom, and Disco Ball were not as of mid-2017. The Fortune Cookie and Takeout Box emojis were officially added to the Unicode Standard in June 2017, a month before the movie came out, so they would not have been on phones during filming, although it is possible that they added them during the last minute.
  23. Plot hole: Hi-5 tells Gene that he needs to find the hacker emoji Jailbreak if he wants to figure out how to save himself from being deleted by Smiler. When they finally meet her, however, High Five seems surprised to see that Jailbreak is a female, indicating that they never met before. How does he know who she is in the first place?
  24. While the animation is very nice, solid and fluid, in terms of overall visual design, it looks rather highly uncreative and absolutely unimaginative. This has no creativity to put into it as well.
  25. Abysmal directing of Tony Leondis, to the point where he ends up being won at Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Director.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Like many of the other films from Sony Pictures Animation, the animation is very solid in terms of rendering and although the art style looks generic for the most part, some elements look rather nice.
    • To add to this, despite the overuse of blatant and obvious product placement, the way the animators were able to create the world of the phone and the different apps was well done.
  2. The scene at Instagram where Mel and Mary make up, with the former opening up to the latter and revealing his inner-emotions to her, explaining how he kept them bottled-up inside and how he was afraid of showing them, is very emotional; it is also paced properly in comparison to almost every other scene in the film, and the conversation between both Mel and Mary feels organic, it feels like a conversation between two parents going through problems.
  3. As weak as much of the attempts at humor are, there are some that worked:
    • Old-school emoticons, specifically ":)", being portrayed as elders in one scene.
    • One scene where Akiko Glitter is dancing in the trash, wondering why she keeps dancing while crying.
    • There is an amusing moment with the Columbia Pictures opening logo with an emoji.
  4. Excellent soundtrack for the film composed by Patrick Doyle (who also did the soundtrack for Brave and Artemis Fowl); in particular, "Good Vibrations" by Ricky Reed is decent.
  5. Smiler is well-developed and sympathetic as a character, as her intentions and motivations are understandable and were defined better than those of the other characters, despite her still not being that likable. Everything she did was to stop Gene from essentially destroying the emojis' world; she wanted to kill him to protect the phone and its data from getting deleted. In addition to this, Maya Rudolph does a decent job playing her.
  6. Despite the performances from much of the actors being below average, T.J. Miller's performance as Gene stands out decently. Same can be also said for Maya Rudolph's performance as Smiler as well.
  7. There are at least decent reference to both the Atari game Pong, and Michael Jackson, despite these references feeling a bit out-of-place.
  8. The film gives a good moral about accepting yourself for who you are and that it's ok to be different.
  9. At least Gene, Hi-5, Jailbreak, and Mel do get their respective character development by the end of the movie.
  10. The novel adaptation, while also bad, does address some of this movie's problems. For example, Alex and Addie talk face-to-face, instead of using just the Gene emoji in the movie.


Pre-released response

On December 20, 2016, the teaser trailer was released, which received overwhelming criticism from social media users, collecting almost 22,000 "dislikes" against 4,000 "likes" within the first 24 hours of its release. On May 16, 2017, the second trailer was released, which also received an extremely negative reception. The posters also received overwhelming criticism as well.

Critical and audiences response

After its release, The Emoji Movie was universally panned by critics and audiences alike, who criticized the script, humor, blatant product placement, tone, voice performances, lack of originality, and plot; many also called it "unfunny and a waste of time," and compared it unfavorably to The Lego Movie, the Academy Award-winning Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph. Several major outlets called it not only one of the worst films ever made from Sony Pictures Animation (more so than The Smurfs and its sequel), but also one of the worst films of 2017 and also it is widely considered as one of the worst animated movies ever made.

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 0%[3]; it has since then been changed to a 7% rating, based on 131 reviews, with an average rating of 2.67/10. The site's critical consensus displays a single NO ENTRY SIGN character ("🚫"; U+1F6AB) in place of text. It has a 3.3/10 on IMDb and Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, has a weighted average score of 12 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike"; it is the lowest-rated animated film of all time on Metacritic. The film also received a 1.2 rating on Letterboxd. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.

Chris Stuckmann earned this movie an F grade, explaining why he said he went to see and it sucked.

Box office

The Emoji Movie opened at #2 on its opening weekend grossing $24,531,923 domestically. The film would later make a total domestic gross of $86,089,513. In foreign countries, the film made $131,687,133. Overall, the film grossed $217,776,646 worldwide against its $50 million budget, making it a box office success , and the seventh highest grossing animated film of 2017 .

Awards and nominations

The Emoji Movie won four Razzie Awards: Worst Director (Tony Leondis), Worst Screen Combo (any two obnoxious emojis), Worst Screenplay, and Worst Picture at the 38th Golden Raspberry Awards ceremony. Making it the 1st animated film to take home Worst Picture in Razzie history and with the most Razzies. But despite this, it was nominated at Kids' Choice Award 2018 for Favorite Animated Movie but lost to the Pixar animated film Coco.



  • Jordan Peele was asked to voice Poop; he refused, and he has cited this offer as the reason he decided to start a directorial career, starting with Get Out. It was given to Patrick Stewart.[4]
  • Ilana Glazer was originally cast for the role of Jailbreak[5], but for unknown reasons, she was replaced by Anna Faris, who previously voiced Sam Sparks in the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films, who coincidentally is also the love interest of the protagonist.
    • Coincidentally, both T.J Miller and Anna Faris also play roles in Yogi Bear; similarly, T.J Miller and James Corden played roles in Gulliver's Travels, released around the same time as Yogi Bear (both were even released on the same day in some countries).
  • The film was fast tracked into production by the studio after the bidding war. Unlike most other animated films, The Emoji Movie, surprisingly, took two years to make, as there were concerns that the movie would become outdated due to the evolution of phone technology, even though in the Audio Commentary cut on Blu Ray, DVD, and digital (HD copies only), the creators stated that it visually looked like it took 4 years to make.[6]
  • The Emoji Movie is the first (and so far only) animated film to win the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture Award, and the only animated film with multiple wins (4), let alone 1.
  • In the (UK and Australian Region 4) versions, the word turd is replaced with poop. Moreover, the acronym "WTF" was removed from these versions. This was done to achieve the lowest age rating possible, despite the Australian version retaining a G rating for its Blu-Ray and digital releases for still using "turd".
  • In November 2015, Sony scheduled the film to be released on August 11, 2017. A year later, it was moved to August 4, with Baby Driver (2017) initially taking its previous date. In late March, the film was moved one week earlier, to July 28, switching places with Sony Pictures' The Dark Tower (2017).
  • The film's theatrical release is preceded by Puppy! (2017), a Hotel Transylvania short written and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky.
  • A tie-in video game, which used to exist, called Pop Frenzy: The Emoji Movie Game released in app stores on July of 2017, to coincide with the release of the movie. Since January of 2021, the game has been delisted from all digital platforms, and the game is no longer available for download, and gems cannot be bought with real money anymore.
  • In April of 2021, Sony announced a theme park titled Columbia Pictures Aquaverse, in which one of these attractions will include a golf course based off The Emoji Movie, currently slated for release in October of 2021.
  • On July 20, 2017, Sony Pictures invited YouTuber Jacksfilms (whom they considered "the [No. 1] fan of the Emoji Movie") to the world premiere and sent him a package containing various Emoji Movie memorabilia including fidget spinners, face masks, and a plushie of the poop emoji. Jacksfilms had praised the movie four months prior, although it was sarcasm and he was actually making fun of the movie, and only ever saw it at the world premiere. In fact, this whole stunt was just blatant marketing for the movie, and it worked in Sony's favour. In fact, in one of his recent YIAY videos, he states that he has only ever seen the movie during its world premiere, and hasn't seen the movie since.

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