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What Critics Are Saying About The Emoji Movie

Looks like emojis are better kept on your smartphone than on the big screen.

Early reviews for Sony's The Emoji Movie, directed by The Prince of Egypt story artist Tony Leondis, have rolled out, and the consensus isn't as bright as the film's yellow-faced animated stars. 

The film centers around an emoji named Gene (voiced by former Silicon Valley star T.J. Miller), whose power to portray infinite emotions has become a hindrance. Gene's biggest goal in life is to become more than just his bizarre ability and finally be seen as a "normal" emoji. With the right amount of talent and inspiration behind that silly premise, the film could have been enjoyable. Unfortunately, critics have agreed that The Emoji Movie doesn't rise to any potential. 

As The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore stated, "Given the right combination of inspiration, intelligence and gifted artists, any dumb thing can be turned into an enjoyable film. But Tony Leondis' The Emoji Movie, a very, very dumb thing, comes nowhere near that magic combination. It is fast and colorful enough to attract young kids, but offers nearly nothing to their parents." DeFore also found fault in the film's script, which he noted as "weirdly unconvincing" and filled with lame, stale dialogue. "Hell, they can't even come up with fresh-smelling one-liners about the movie's resident poop icon," he wrote. 

Emily Yoshida at Vulture was even harder on The Emoji Movie, calling it "one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen, much less one ostensibly made for children." She added, "Not once does this film rise above the level of humor of literally any real-world use of a simple upside-down-face emoji (whose meaning I tend to translate as 'Wheeee, life is a horrible hall of mirrors and I am powerless to do anything but smile about it.')" Additionally, Yoshida viewed the film's product placement as overt and aggressive: "Yes, the actual IP of The Emoji Movie has nothing to do with the emojis themselves, and everything to do with the apps that have prime placement in the Google AdWords–grade narrative."

Vadim Rizov of A.V. Club referred to the film as "Inside Out crossed with a Sony commercial and dunked in toxic ooze," writing that "The Emoji Movie is more like a severely debased Inside Out that takes place inside of a smartphone [and] the 'plot' is really an excuse to hop from one app to another." Ultimately, Rizov stated that "there was probably never going to be a version of this film that would prove even remotely plausible as a movie someone felt passionately about making for artistic reasons."

The New York Times' Glenn Kenny felt much the same. "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," Kenny wrote. "I can't be entirely certain of this, but I would say The Emoji Movie takes this notion to the outer limits of credibility."

Forbes' Scott Mendelson didn't pull as many punches in his review, but was still underwhelmed by the film. "I'd be lying if I argued that The Emoji Movie is unheard-of cinematic abomination. It's visually spry, occasionally clever and relatively harmless. Yet it feels afraid of going where it wants to go," he wrote. "The Emoji Movie is neither good enough to transcend its existence, nor is it bad enough to represent a nadir in pop culture cinema... a movie based around emojis isn't any more intrinsically awful than movies based on theme park rides or building block-based toys." Mendelson summed up The Emoji Movie as "surface-level entertaining."

While these initial reviews of The Emoji Movie are, admittedly, quite harsh, some viewers may still find it a good way to spend an afternoon. Decide for yourself when The Emoji Movie hits theaters on July 28. 

In the meantime, check out the movies you had no idea were being made right now.