If you text on your cellphone, or enjoy posting on Facebook or Twitter, then you’ve probably used an emoji. Maybe it’s a smiley face, thumbs up or other digital images (or icons) that come with your cellphone, tablet or computer. The idea behind emojis is using a small picture to express emotions, rather than using words.
That’s the basic premise of "The Emoji Movie" However, get ready and buckle your seats. This movie is a fast-paced roller coaster ride with jolts, sharp drops, twists and turns. Children will see it as colorful and entertaining, but teens and adults will understand it on another level, and appreciate the metaphors and symbolism.
To begin with, the movie is about two worlds. One world is for humans, and the other world is a digital city inside your cellphone named Textapolis. In the human world, a high school student named Alex has a crush on a girl named Addie. The movie is all about Alex sending text messages to Addie, and what happens inside his cellphone as a result.
Inside Alex’s cellphone is the digital city of Textopolis, where emojis talk, laugh and play. The story focuses on a “Meh” emoji named Gene. Of course, Meh is an icon that expresses feeling bored, uninterested or indifferent.
The job sounds easy, but Gene the emoji is struggling to be meh. He has lots of emotions, including excitement and happiness. It’s hard for him to be meh all the time. Under pressure, Gene struggles to keep a straight face and be meh. Sadly, not being Meh is a serious problem that could cost him his life.
Gene is the son of two emojis named Mel and Mary Meh. As parents, they insist that Gene is not ready to work. He needs to spend more time practicing and staying in character. Gene’s job is making a meh expression on Alex’s cellphone. Can he do it, and keep a straight face? Switching to the human world, Alex receives a text message from his crush Addie, and decides to respond with an emoji. When Meh is selected, Gene panics, makes a confusing expression and wrecks the text center inside Textapolis.
As a result, Gene is confronted by the menacing Smiler, a smiley emoji and leader of the text center, who concludes that Gene is a "malfunction" and therefore must be deleted. Gene panics and runs away. Gene is chased by bots, which are Nazi-like robot guards with red neon eyes and laser guns.
If only Gene can get away, then he might be able to turn himself into a single-expression emoji. Gene is rescued by “High 5” (or Hi-5) a hand emoji who becomes his friend. Hi-5 was once a popular emoji but has since lost his fame due to lack of use. He tells Gene that he can be fixed if they find a hacker named “Jailbreak.”
As it turns out, Jackbreak is a girl with purple hair who really knows how to break codes that are written into the phone. She is cynical but super smart, and claims there’s nothing she can’t reprogram. Jailbreak dreams of someday leaving the Phone and living in the Cloud, a legendary world where she can live her life by her own rules. When she meets Gene, Jailbreak recognizes she can use him to gain access to the Cloud. Jailbreak makes a deal with Gene and Hi-5. If she can reprogram Gene and get Hi-5 into the favorites section of the cellphone, then they will help her get past a firewall that will let her leave the phone.
While all this is happening, Alex decides to take his phone into the cellphone store because he thinks its acting up. He sets an appointment for the next day, which will erase everything on the phone. If Alex’s phone is restored to the original settings, it could mean the end of Textapolis and life as they know it.
Is this a good movie for children?
You might be wondering if this film is appropriate for children. As a parent, I think it depends on your child’s sensitivity. In the movie, Gene the Meh emoji is hunted down by robotic thugs, who intend to delete him. The bots shoot red lasers and speak with threatening computerized robotic voices. Obviously, being deleted is the equivalency of being killed. Sensitive children may be troubled by this aspect, and might be frightened by the robotic thugs. For other children, this will fly over their heads, or they just won’t take it seriously.
As a parent with two teenagers, I feel like this movie is a good choice for the family. The animation is colorful, creative and cleverly designed. Each scene has a different landscape, although some of the apps may have been placed in the movie as product placement and promotion. In spite of that, this movie is fun and entertaining.
Indirectly, the movie points to society’s tendency to throw things away rather than fix them. We do this without a second thought. When something doesn’t work properly, it’s a considered a malfunction and is therefore quickly discarded and replaced. The days of fixing things are long gone, as repairs are often considered to be expensive and obsolete. However, the movie has a positive message with the character of Gene the emoji. Gene feels like he’s broken – not just different, but broken – and wants to be fixed somehow. He goes on this journey to fix himself, and then he realizes that he’s not broken at all. The thing that makes him different makes him stronger.
"The Emoji Movie" is rated PG for rude humor) and is currently playing in theaters.