The Emoji Movie is a 2017 American 3D computer-animated comedy film directed by Tony Leondis and written by Leondis, Eric Siegel and Mike White, based on the emoji symbols. It stars the voices of T. J. Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Rob Riggle, Jennifer Coolidge, Christina Aguilera, Sofía Vergara, Sean Hayes and Patrick Stewart. The film centers on Gene, a multi-expressional emoji who lives in a teenager's phone, and who sets out on a journey to become a normal meh emoji like his parents.
Produced by Sony Pictures Animation, and distributed by Columbia Pictures, The Emoji Movie premiered on July 23, 2017 at the Regency Village Theatre, was theatrically released in the United States on July 28, 2017 and has grossed over $125 million worldwide. It received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics, many of whom compared it unfavorably to The Lego Movie, Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph.
Gene is an emoji that lives in Textopolis, a digital city inside the phone of his user Alex. He is the son of two meh emojis named Mel and Mary, and is able to make multiple expressions despite his parents' upbringing. His parents are hesitant of him going to work, but Gene insists so that he can feel useful. Upon receiving a text from his crush Addie, Alex decides to send her an emoji. When Gene is selected, he panics, makes a confusing expression, and wrecks the text center. Gene is called in by Smiler, a smiley emoji and leader of the text center, who concludes that Gene is a "malfunction" and therefore must be deleted. Gene is chased by bots, but is rescued by Hi-5, a once popular emoji who has since lost his fame due to lack of use. He tells Gene that he can be fixed if they find a hacker, and Hi-5 accompanies him so that he can reclaim his fame.
Smiler sends more bots to look for Gene when she finds out that he has left Textopolis, as his actions have caused Alex to think that his phone needs to be fixed. Gene and Hi-5 come to a piracy app where they meet the hacker emoji Jailbreak, who wants to reach Dropbox so that she can live in the cloud. The trio is attacked by Smiler's bots, but manage to escape into the game Candy Crush. Jailbreak reveals that Gene can be fixed in the cloud, and the group goes off into the Just Dance app. While there, Jailbreak is revealed to be a princess emoji, named Linda, who fled home too after tiring of being stereotyped. They are once again attacked by bots, and their actions cause Alex to delete the Just Dance app. Gene and Jailbreak escape, but Hi-5 is taken along with the app and ends up in the trash.
Mel and Mary go searching for Gene and have a very lethargic argument. They make up in the Instagram app when Mel reveals that he, too, is a malfunction, explaining Gene's behavior. While traveling through Spotify, Jailbreak admits that she likes Gene just the way he is, and that he should not be ashamed of his malfunction. They make it to the trash and rescue Hi-5, but are soon attacked by an upgraded bot. They evade it and enter Dropbox, where they encounter a firewall. The gang get past it with a password being Addie's name and make it to the cloud, where Jailbreak prepares to reprogram Gene. Gene admits his feelings for Jailbreak, but she wishes to stick to her plan of venturing into the cloud, unintentionally causing Gene to revert to his apathetic programming out of heartbreak. The upgraded bot takes Gene, and Hi-5 and Jailbreak race after them.
As Smiler prepares to delete Gene, Mel and Mary arrive and are also threatened. Jailbreak and Hi-5 arrive and disable the bot, which falls on top of Smiler. Alex has since taken his phone to the store and asks to have his phone erased to fix the problem. Out of desperation, Gene prepares to have himself texted to Addie, making numerous faces to express himself. Realizing that Addie received a text from him, Alex stops his phone from getting erased, saving the emoji and finally getting to speak with Addie. Gene accepts himself for who he is and is celebrated by all of the emojis.
In a mid-credits scene, Smiler is seen wearing numerous braces due to her teeth being cracked by the bot, playing and losing a game of Go Fish in the "loser lounge" with the other forgotten and unused emotions, implying that she was demoted for her crimes.
The film was inspired by director Tony Leondis' love of Toy Story. Wanting to make a new take on the concept, he began asking himself, "What is the new toy out there that hasn't been explored?" At the same time, Leondis received a text message with an emoji, which helped him realize that this was the world he wanted to explore. In fleshing out the story, Leondis considered having the emojis visit the real world. However, his producer felt that the world inside a phone was much more interesting, which inspired Leondis to create the story of where and how the emojis lived. As Leondis is gay, he connected to Gene's plight of "being different in a world that expects you to be one thing," and in eventually realizing that the feeling held true for most people, Leondis has said the film "was very personal".
In July 2015, it was announced that Sony Pictures Animation had won the bidding war against Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures over production rights to make the film, with the official announcement occurring at the 2016 CinemaCon.
On World Emoji Day on June 17, 2016, Miller was announced as the lead. Leondis created the part with Miller in mind, although the actor was initially hesitant to play the role, only accepting after Leondis briefed him on the story. Leondis chose Miller because "when you think of irrepressible, you think of TJ. But he also has this surprising ability to break your heart". In October 2016, it was announced that Ilana Glazer and Corden would join the cast as well. Glazer was later replaced by Anna Faris.
In November 2015, Sony scheduled the film to be released on August 11, 2017. A year later, it was moved to August 4, 2017, with Baby Driver taking its previous date. In late March 2017, the film was moved one week earlier, to July 28, 2017, switching places with Sony Pictures' The Dark Tower.
On December 20, 2016, a teaser trailer for the film was released. A second trailer was later released on May 16, 2017. Sony promoted the latter release of the trailer by hosting a press conference in Cannes, the day before the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, which featured T. J. Miller parasailing in. Variety called the event "slightly awkward", and The Hollywood Reporter described it as "promotional ridiculousness".
Days prior the film's release, Sony was criticized after the film's official Twitter account posted a promotional picture of a parody of The Handmaid's Tale, featuring Smiler. The parody was considered to be "tasteless" due to the overall themes of the work, and the image was deleted afterward.
As of August 20, 2017[update], The Emoji Movie has grossed $71.8 million in the United States and Canada and $53.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $125.4 million, against a production budget of $50 million.
The Emoji Movie was released alongside Atomic Blonde, and was projected to gross around $20 million from 4,075 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $900,000 from Thursday night previews and $10.1 million on its first day. It went on to debut to $24.5 million, finishing second at the box office behind Dunkirk.
Review embargoes for the film were lifted midday July 27, only a few hours before the film premiered to the general public, in a move considered among one of several tactics studios are using to try to curb bad Rotten Tomatoes ratings. Speaking of the effect embargoing reviews until last minute had on the film's debut, Josh Greenstein, Sony Pictures president of worldwide marketing and distribution, said, "The Emoji Movie was built for people under 18 ... so we wanted to give the movie its best chance. What other wide release with a score under 8 percent has opened north of $20 million? I don't think there is one." In the film's second weekend it dropped nearly 50%, grossing $12.4 million and finishing in 3rd.
Critics panned The Emoji Movie, calling it "unfunny and a waste of time", and comparing it unfavorably to The Lego Movie, Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 8% based on 90 reviews, with an average rating of 2.5/10. The site's critical consensus displays a no symbol emoji ("🚫") in place of text. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 12 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a D, writing: "Make no mistake, The Emoji Movie is very, very, very bad (we're talking about a hyperactive piece of corporate propaganda in which Spotify saves the world and Sir Patrick Stewart voices a living turd), but real life is just too hard to compete with right now." Alonso Duralde of TheWrap was also critical of the film, calling it "a soul-crushing disaster because it lacks humor, wit, ideas, visual style, compelling performances, a point of view or any other distinguishing characteristic that would make it anything but a complete waste of your time".
Glen Kenny of The New York Times described the film as "nakedly idiotic", stating that the film plays off a Hollywood idea that the "panderingly, trendily idiotic can be made to seem less so". Owen Gleiberman of Variety lambasted the film as "hectic situational overkill" and "lazy" while viciously criticizing the film, writing: "There have been worse ideas, but in this case the execution isn't good enough to bring the notion of an emoji movie to funky, surprising life." Writing in The Guardian, Charles Bramesco called the film "insidious evil" and wrote that it was a little more than an exercise in advertising smartphone downloads to children.
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