An Honest Review of ‘The Emoji Movie’

It’s this generation’s ‘Citizen Kane.’

Quick — think of your favorite movie.

Now, tell me a film that’s twice as good.

Difficult, eh?

If you answered “yes” to that last question, then you likely have not seen the summer blockbuster The Emoji Movie, directed by the same guy who brought us 2011’s award-winning Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters. This profound piece of cinema brings everyone’s favorite form of communication to life, while seamlessly blending humor, romance, action, and the other 1,141 feelings that these revolutionary emoticons display. Because of the sheer magnitude of this film’s greatness, it is best to dissect The Emoji Movie part-by-part. So, without any further ado, let’s dive in.

Disclaimer: All characters mentioned in this review will be referred to by their corresponding emoji, in order to make this article as immersive and trendy as possible.

Plot 📖

The Emoji Movie follows Gene (😒), a meh emoji with a very special talent: he can take the form of any face, meaning that he isn’t limited to just one expression. Though that might sound cool to the casual observer, hardcore emoji experts (or “emojiologists,” as they’re professionally called) would know that this is not okay; customarily, an emoji is only allowed to show the emotion they’re assigned. As a result, 😒 is considered a malfunction, and Smiler (😃), the de facto leader of the emoji, wants to destroy him. In order to escape his impending demise, 😒 runs off with the wise-cracking Hi-5 (✋️) to find Jailbreak (👩‍🎤), a hacker who will help 😒 become normal. All the while, 😒’s mom (😒👩) and dad (😒👨) go off on an adventure of their own, in an attempt to find their son. Eventually, 😒, ✋️, and 👩‍🎤 arrive at the Dropbox app, where 👩‍🎤 can turn 😒 into a normal meh emoji. At the last second, however, 😒 realizes that he likes being different, and after heading home to defeat 😃, he is considered a hero.

In short, The Emoji Movie is about an outcast who tries to fulfill expected norms, but along the way, he comes to understand that his differences are actually good. It’s a completely original story, unlike anything the world has ever seen. Overall, the trailblazing plot of the The Emoji Movie is expertly-written and deserving of the highest praise.

Setting 🌆

The awe-inspiring capers of the The Emoji Movie all happen inside the smartphone of Alex, an awkward high school freshman. Each application on Alex’s phone is like a different world, and we begin in Textopolis, the name of the city housed by his messaging app. Eventually, the characters leave Textopolis to explore new apps and games — such as YouTube, Instagram, and Candy Crush Saga — all of which offer fun shenanigans and oodles of proof that the directors are in-touch with what the kids consider “hip.” Many critics have complained that the inclusion of these apps was solely for product placement revenue. While that might be true, we shouldn’t be lambasting Sony for that decision; if anything, we should be proud of them for getting some sponsorship money. Yay, Sony!

Characterization 👂

Holy freakin’ goodness, the characters in this film are all so nuanced and innovative. I will run through each major one individually.

  • As stated previously, 😒 is a wonderfully-designed protagonist, and the growth he undergoes throughout the movie is unprecedented. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, just wondering whether or not he would give in to everyone’s expectations.
  • ✋️ is a bit of an interesting case. He starts out self-centered and rude, but by the end of the film, he begins to care for his new friends. What a captivating character arc.
  • 👩‍🎤 is another new, original character trope, since she is a rebellious teenager who seeks to defy societal expectations with her edginess and punk-rock vibes. Halfway through the movie, there is also an interesting twist involving 👩‍🎤, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. I guess you’ll just have to pony up ~$15 to Sony Pictures Animation so you can see for yourself!
  • Both 😒👩 & 😒👨 are sources of most the movie’s comic relief, because it’s so ROFLMAO funny to see them react to every situation with a deadpan expression and unenthused voice. That totally doesn’t get old after about five minutes.
  • 😃 is the perfect antagonist, giving villains like Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter a run for their money. Just like 😒👩 & 😒👨, she has an interesting contradiction: despite her constantly smiling face, she almost always has something sinister up her sleeve, but once again, it’s just hilarious to see that juxtaposition for 86 minutes. Also, it was a very brave decision from the writers to give 😃 no actual motivation for being evil. She just does bad things for no reason, and the audience is expected to go along with it. Truly groundbreaking.

Visuals 👀

Considering that films are meant to be observed with one’s eyes, the visuals of a movie are one of the most important things about it, and thankfully, the cinematography in The Emoji Movie does not disappoint. Every single scene jumps out at you, even if you aren’t watching the picture in RealD™ 3D. There were some parts that seemed so real, like when 😒 and 👩‍🎤 took a boat ride through the Spotify app (pictured below), you will feel like you’re actually there! The quality of camera work that went into making The Emoji Movie is absolutely unbelievable.

Sound 👂

This isn’t the 1920s, folks — our movies NEED audio. Not only that, they need GOOD audio. The makers of the The Emoji Movie realize this, and they provide viewers with nothing but #jams. Hits such as “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silentó and the Felix Jaehn remix of OMI’s “Cheerleader” find their way onto this film’s soundtrack, making it clear that the directors know exactly which songs kids are listening to in mid-2017. There is even a long sequence in which 😒, ✋️, and 👩‍🎤 hang out in the Just Dance Now! app and invent a killer new boogie, the Emoji Bop, and one can only hope that the dance goes viral irl (that means “in real life,” for all the folks who aren’t down with modern lingo). In short, the music in The Emoji Movie is sure to leave you poppin’, lockin’, and droppin’ all evening long!

Final Thoughts 🤔

To put it bluntly, The Emoji Movie is a remarkable cinematic feat that provides poignant social commentary. From thrilling action bits to sultry love scenes, this film truly has everything, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is looking to have their life changed forever.

Overall, The Emoji Movie deserves four one-hundred emojis out of four:


Bradley Wascher has never studied film a day in his life; he is a Political Science major.

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