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All the Times We Groaned Watching The Emoji Movie

The Emoji Movie. Photo: Sony Pictures Animation

On Wednesday, because our jobs as panhandlers at “the intersection of tech and culture” demand it, we went to see The Emoji Movie, which is a film about the Unicode characters that live in your phone. Our colleague Emily Yoshida calls it “one of the darkest, most dismaying films I have ever seen,” a sentiment with which we concur: We groaned, scoffed, and rolled our eyes nonstop throughout the film, and the following is a list of everything that made us question not only the filmic arts, the tech industry, and capitalism as an economic system, but also whether man’s ability to harness the power of electricity was itself an enormous mistake. (Spoilers, if for some reason you really care.)

Brand placements

There are approximately 1 billion of these. Let’s run through them.

WeChat: For the first stop on their grand app tour, Meh and his friends pop into WeChat, the megapopular Chinese app that nobody uses in the United States. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more transparent attempt to pander to the Chinese film market this year.

Candy Crush: I blacked out for this portion of the movie after realizing we were about to watch a game of Candy Crush played out in real time on the big screen. Spoiler alert: They win.

Spotify: Music is represented in literal streams that the emoji float down in a boat. This is all you need to know.

Dropbox: In a deal that I’m guessing cost eight figures, our protagonists spend much of the film traversing the smartphone to get to Dropbox, the remote storage service, in order to get off the phone and access the cloud. Deus ex Dropbox-ina. Good grief!

Instagram: During their quest to reach “the cloud,” our emoji take a little pit stop in Instagram, which is basically just a singular photo from a family trip to Paris. Two emoji who are on the brink of divorce — yes, emoji divorce — reconcile in front of the Eiffel Tower. There’s a bad Casablanca reference. It hurts.

Photo: Sony Pictures Animation

Just Dance: Featuring a cameo from one Christina Aguilera, the emoji must dance their way out of this app, while being chased by antivirus bots shooting laser guns. The bots also dance. “Disco Inferno” plays. The bots are actually pretty good.

YouTube: YouTube, as per The Emoji Movie, is basically just the “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” video and that one with the surprised kitten being tickled. Actually, this was fairly accurate.

Twitter: The climax of the film sees our heroes calling on the Twitter bird to fly them back home so they can save their digital civilization. Do you remember when the eagles showed up at the end of Return of the King? Imagine the worst possible version of that.

Other stuff

Dad Jokes: The humor in this movie is … not good. If you were hoping for one of those the kids will laugh and their parents will laugh, too, for vastly different reasons sort of children’s flicks, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Groan-inducing gags included an emoticon — the granddaddy of emoji — yelling “my colon,” and the poop emoji (Sir Patrick Stewart) punching a pedestal fan. As in shit hitting … the fan.

The Firewall: Quite literally, a flaming wall of binary code. Ouch. It plays Pitbull’s “Fireball” (because the words sound … alike?).

Feminism: Without giving a whole lot away — actually, I’m about to ruin an already terrible movie for you — the mysterious female lead, a blue-haired hacker named Jailbreak, turns out to be a princess emoji in disguise. She spends the whole movie trying, vocally, to fight stereotypes about female-identified emoji, like telling her male peers that lady emoji can be more than just “a princess or a bride” and that, no, just because she’s a princess birds don’t magically appear when she whistles. Except, just when you think Princess Jailbreak is going to choose herself over her newfound love interest, Meh, she changes her mind and opts to save him at the expense of freeing herself. How does she do this? By whistle-summoning a bird and riding it to safety. The bird … well, reader, I’m sorry, but it’s Twitter.

Photo: Sony Pictures Animation

Their user’s infosec: Having escaped the texting app, our heroic trio heads to a piracy app hidden within an innocuous dictionary app. That’s terrible infosec. In what is essentially a giant ad for Sony products and social-media monoliths, including jailbroken apps is … an odd move. True to life, but odd.

Meh: Do a shot every time the word meh is used as a play on words for man. As in “a real meh,” “for all mehkind,” “you’re not the meh I thought I married.” I wish I had. This movie would likely have been more enjoyable intoxicated.

Getting an appointment no problem: As the phone continues to malfunction, user Alex makes an appointment at the phone store to get it repaired. This is maybe the part of the film that requires the greatest suspension of disbelief — he shows up to his appointment early and the support staff is like, “No problem, we’re not busy.” Nobody in the history of consumer technology has showed up for a tech-support appointment and been promptly serviced.

Hi-Five body horror: Hands shouldn’t have mouths. It’s just uncomfortable. There was something profoundly disturbing about watching Hi-Five shove candy in his mouth, which was basically just a hole in his palm, which is his body, which is just wrong. (Also, a briefly glimpsed thumbs-up emoji has six-pack abs.)

Photo: Sony Pictures Animation

Mixed metaphors for trolling: If there’s one thing that bugs me about tech fantasy (I am, to be clear, very cool), it’s when the internal logic doesn’t gel. At one point in the film, Meh and his crew travel to a “piracy app,” which is rendered as a shady speakeasy. Inside, they find viruses, Trojan horses, and internet trolls. The last of those is not a computer function — internet trolls do not exist within a computer’s architecture. God!!!!!!!

A gaping plot hole: I won’t get too into this, but The Emoji Movie revolves around this stupid contraption where typing an emoji requires a sort of scanning process to happen. So emoji have to basically Method act their emotions all the time, and especially when being scanned. At the beginning of the film, Meh screws this up and the scan results in a still-image mishmash of expressions. But at the end, in an attempt to create a uniquely expressive emoji, he does the exact same action and creates what is essentially a GIF of multiple expressions. So basically the entire plot is moot because the exact same action at the beginning and end of the movie produce arbitrarily different results. GOD!!!!!!!

All the Times We Groaned Watching The Emoji Movie