It’s easy to pick on The Emoji Movie. In fact, while we’re at it, let’s also admit that this writer continues to have fun at the film’s expense. Except, while Sony’s unanimously derided film has already been the recipient of rants both angry and personal, one wonders if it really is the worst film of all time.
It is not.
Sure, it is a terribly made film with a self-contradictory screenplay graph and the humor spectrum that falls between unfunny and cringeworthy. In spite of it all though, it isn’t the worst movie ever—let alone the worst animation film. The top spot for the latter still goes to a certain twerking bear we must never speak of ever again, and Lawrence Kasanoff’s Foodfight!, a film with stuff literal nightmares are made of.
The Emoji Movie is set up on the foundations of a decent production design, and if the world of smartphones is to be believed, is fine for what it does. The animation in this film is decent, and the singular moment of Gene’s (T. J. Miller; Big Hero 6) parents wandering across the Instagram app, however gimmicky and gratuitous, deserves mention.
With the kind of talent, clout, and resources at their disposal, the makers had no excuse not to try harder.
Superficially, it is a serviceable animation film with a message that, by any means, is not bad at all. We’re living in a year of great sociopolitical unrest, and if hating everything about the movie also means hating its timely message of acceptance, the acknowledgement of self, and the fight for the greater good, it makes sense why we’re a part of the world we live in right now.
Does that automatically absolve Tony Leondis’s (Igor) latest of its numerous sins? Absolutely not. This is a movie that’s often uncomfortable to sit through, making for an extremely frustrating—if not cringeworthy—watch. With toilet humor that’s made to haunt you forever, and product placements that rain down on you like nobody’s business, The Emoji Movie is the kind of moneymaking attempt that is both shameless and synthetic.
And if things can’t get any worse, the movie massively underutilizes the pool of insane voice cast it has. It’s heartbreaking to see the likes of Sofia Vergara, Anna Faris, Jennifer Coolidge, Maya Rudolph, and—most importantly—Sir Patrick Stewart, who are collectively reduced to absolute nothings within the spate of its runtime. With the kind of talent, clout, and resources at their disposal, the makers had no excuse not to try harder.
Ultimately though, it’s a movie about Emojis—those pesky little yellow spheres we use for the most inconsequential parts of our daily conversations. Should we be mad the movie exists? Yes. Must we watch the movie? Not by a mile and a half. But is it the worst movie ever? Probably, if you’ve never been plagued by the likes of House of the Dead, or The Amazing Bulk.