The Emoji Movie

(U) ★

IF ever there was a movie that exemplified soulless, corporate, made-by-committee Hollywood filmmaking it’s this brash animation all about the world inside your smartphone. Yes, it really has come to this.

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That world is Textopolis — contained inside the phone of our love-struck human protagonist Alex nervous to send a text to his crush — where the all-important emojis exist with a single purpose: to pull the correct face whenever the Alex decides to send one of them.

Gene (voiced by TJ Miller) is raring to go on his first assignment as the increasingly popular “meh” emoji but ashamed of his ability to pull multiple faces when everyone else just does one. When he freaks out and pulls an inexplicable face, Alex starts to think his phone is broken and seeks to get it wiped, putting the entire existence of Textopolis in jeopardy.

The idea of someone twiddling around with their phone at the cinema is irritating enough but to actually see that world of silly colourful faces writ-large on-screen, with a plot as insubstantial as the not-so-thinly-veiled product placement that infects everything, is almost too much to bear.

Much of the film focuses on Gene running around this internal tech world with sidekicks Hi-5 (a perpetually peppy emoji irritatingly voiced by James Corden) and expert hacker Jailbreak (Anna Faris), visiting various apps like Just Dance and Candy Crush in lame set-pieces that just come across as glorified, shameless product placements.

On a basic level you should believe in the world the film is presenting and the fact that you’re worrying about it even making sense on its own terms shows that the flimsy plotting, cheap life lessons, generic characters and simplistic jokes just aren’t cutting it.

If The LEGO Movie proved that making a movie out of something with instant, world-famous brand recognition can work tremendously well then The Emoji Movie is here to prove that it doesn’t work for everything.

You need some semblance of heart, wit or even just cohesion. This film has none of that. It’s irritating, head-scratching cinema of the worst order.