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The Emoji Movie
A long time ago on a flip phone far, far away, users succinctly encapsulated their feelings with text-based emoticons comprising colons, semi-colons, dashes and parentheses. A beaming smile was always two or three keystrokes away. Then the Japanese gave form and colour to these crude facial expressions with the introduction of emojis, and the initial array of laughter, tears, yawns and surprise expanded into a vast and politically correct lexicon of seasonal and lifestyle motifs. The Emoji Movie is a computer-animated adventure set inside a teenage boy's mobile phone, which hacks the source code from Inside Out and Zootropolis to invent a metropolis where these tiny icons live, perpetually at the beck and call of the user. It's an intriguing premise but director Tony Leondis, who co-wrote the script with Eric Siegel and Mike White, delivers a horribly misjudged journey of self-discovery that can be neatly summed up with one emoji: poop. The tightly coiled, chocolate brown turd makes fleeting appearances in Leondis' picture, and is lifelessly voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart. So-called punchlines fall flat with excruciating frequency and the film's rallying cry for community over selfishness is trumpeted in the most ham-fisted and saccharine fashion ("What good is it to be number one if there aren't any other numbers?"). Gene (voiced by TJ Miller) is a Meh emoji, who is blessed with an unnaturally large repertoire of facial expressions. Bidding farewell to his proudly non-plussed parents Mel (Steven Wright) and Mary (Jennifer Coolidge), Gene heads to Textopolis where he will punctuate text messages sent by shy human teenager Alex (Jake T Austin) to his classmate crush Addie (Tati Gabrielle). Psychotic system supervisor Smiler (Maya Rudolph), who reminds everyone that she was "the original emoji", oversees transmissions and doesn't tolerate workers who deviate from their calling. When Gene strikes an awkward facial expression in one of Alex's texts, the teenager decides to correct the glitch by erasing the contents of his phone. Smiler despatches robot underlings to eliminate Gene but he escapes Textopolis with the help of Hi-5 (James Corden), who suggests they seek out a hacker emoji called Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to correct Gene's lifelong malfunction. "I can be reprogrammed and finally I can be the Meh I was meh to be!" gushes Gene as the fugitives leap from app to app, including a dance challenge hosted by Akiko Glitter (Christina Aguilera). The Emoji Movie is 86 minutes devoid of imagination and creativity, which will leave you feeling >:[ and >:O. The plot is nonsensical (lots of the facial emojis in Textopolis reflect contrary feelings but only Gene is labelled a malfunction) and the script fails to mine wit from the relentless product placement of popular apps. The impending destruction of Gene and his digital kin courtesy of a system reboot to Alex's handset can't happen soon enough.