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The Emoji Movie (2017)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 10/24/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/25/2017

Movies based on trends have been around forever, and producers love to capitalize on something which is hot in popular culture. The 50s and 60s saw film which attempted to capture things that teens were into, such as music and dances. This trend continued into the 70s (Saturday Night Fever anyone?), while the 80s brought us films which referenced toys and television shows. What we've seen over the years is that no subject is seemingly too weird or obscure for someone to throw money at to make a movie. (Garbage Pail Kids? Really?) The latest target of this attention has been cell phones. Seeing that we had the recent The Angry Birds Movie, it really should not have been a surprise when The Emoji Movie came along. But, the question remained. How does one make a movie about emojis?

Inside of Alex's (voiced by Jake T. Austin) phone, a whole universe exists, made up of apps and emojis. The emojis -- those little graphics which represents various emotions, objects, and events -- all live in Textopolis. When they aren't moving about town, they work in a large grid where they wait to be utilized by the user. Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) is a "Meh" emoji (the unimpressed look of boredom) who is excited about his first day of work. There's only one problem, despite the fact that his parents (voiced by Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge) are "Meh" veterans, Gene hasn't mastered the face. And, of course, on his first day on the job, Alex decided decides to go with "Meh". When Gene produces a never-before-seen expression, which conveys several things at once, Textopolis is thrown into chaos, spurred on by the dubious Smiler (voiced by Maya Rudolph). As Gene flees Textopolis with the aid of Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden) and Jailbreak (voiced by Anna Faris), Alex decides to take his phone in for a repair, which could jeopardize everyone's existence.

Again, going into The Emoji Movie, the biggest question (besides "Why?") was "What can the story possibly be?". So, let's start there. The plot is an odd mixture of Tron and every Pixar movie. As with Tron, we see the world inside of a computer, specifically a cell phone. Each app is its own area with its own rules. And, there are secret areas and places of which most programs aren't aware. In other words, an entire world exists inside this small device. But, the film owes much more to the films of Pixar. In particular, the story is very reminiscent of Monsters Inc., as we have a secret industrial world which operates in a very organized manner. And, as with seemingly every Pixar movie (seriously, think about it), we watch as an outcast must team with some other peculiar characters and go on a journey into unknown territory in order to redeem himself. They say that if you are going to steal, then steal from the best, and The Emoji Movie does very little to hide its inspirations.

So, now that we know what The Emoji Movie is about, how is it. The answer is that it's decidedly mediocre. The film has a score of 2.6 out of 10 on IMDB, which is patently absurd. The bulk of those votes must have come from haters who clearly didn't see the movie. Is it great? By no means is it great, but it's hardly one of the worst movies ever made, as that scare would imply. While Writer/Director Tony Leondis and his team of co-writers clearly purloined the skeleton of the film, they did work at cramming as many cell phone, emoji, and app jokes into the movie as possible. And some of them are actually funny. No, these aren't classic jokes and most of them are very corny, but they are humorous. I'm not here to defend this movie, but it brought in $85 million at the U.S. box office, so someone went to see it and clearly word-of-mouth didn't kill it.

There are those who would argue that The Emoji Movie should not even exist. That is clearly a moot point, as it does exist. They question is, is it worth seeing? I wouldn't place it at the top of my "Must See" animated movie list, but I can clearly see how kids would get a kick out of it. The poop emoji jokes and some mild violence aside, it's a pretty sanitary film and it teaches a good lesson about learning to believe in one's self. As with most movies based on fads, I'm sure that The Emoji Movie will soon be forgotten, but, trust me, it's not the worst movie of the year.

The Emoji Movie reminded me how much I've missed Steven Wright on 4K UHD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably yellows and reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very impressive and we can see the work which went into making these 2D objects which only exist on a screen have some life. Along with that, the depth works very well, even in this 2D version, and the characters are nicely defined from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The world of The Emoji Movie is a very busy one and we get a nice amount of stereo and surround action to define everything which is going on around Gene. The surround sound effects are nicely detailed and we can often pick individual sounds. The subwoofer effects accent the pop music heard in the film and add some presence to the action in the finale.

The Emoji Movie 4K UHD contains two extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tony Leondis, Head of Story Mark Sperber, Production Designer Carlos Zaragoza, and Head of Layout James Williams. "Puppy! An Original Hotel Transylvania Short" (5 minutes) is presented in 4K, and offers a glimpse into the world of Hotel Transylvania 3. The remainder of the extras are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Jailbreak Decoded: The Untold Story" (2 minutes) is a deleted scene shown in animatic style, which shows Jailbreak's backstory. "Good Vibrations Dance Along" (3 minutes) shows viewers how to do a dance. "Gimme a Hand! Guess the Emoji Game" (6 minutes) shows two kids trying to identify emojis. "Express Yourself: Meet the Cast" (7 minutes) offers comments from voice actors and shows them working in the recording studio. "Sweet App-Etite: Make Your Own Candy Crush Saga Cake" (6 minutes) is a short cooking show of sorts. "Girls Can Code!" (6 minutes) has Anna Faris introducing a group of girls who are into programming. "Choreographing Emoji with Matt Steffanina" (4 minutes) shows us the creation of the dance that Gene does in the film. "Creating the World Inside Your Phone" (5 minutes) examines the production design and overall look of the film. Leondis discusses the design of the characters in "Brining Emojis to Life" (3 minutes). We learn "How to Draw Poop" and How to Draw Gene". The final extra is the "Lyric Video" for "Good Vibrations".

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long