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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Emoji Movie is a colorful and kid-friendly -- if not particularly original -- adventure that imagines a world inside our smartphones in which each emoji is supposed to have a single expression/role. So when "meh" face Gene (voiced by T.J. Miller) breaks those expectations, chaos ensues. Expect to see some destruction, suspense, and peril; the main characters are pursued by intimidating bots bent on deleting them with their laserlike weapons. But it never gets too intense for young elementary schoolers. There's a bit of flirting, and two emoji characters kiss; there are also scenes that take place in a dive bar, where drinking is implied (and there's a beer emoji character). Language is fairly mild but includes a purposely cut-off "oh, s--t," as well as insults like "loser," "shut up," and so on. Jokes about the poop emoji involve (surprise!) potty humor. Many real-life apps are featured prominently, including Dropbox, YouTube, and Just Dance. The story emphasizes the importance of being true to yourself, as well as the value of honesty and teamwork.
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What's the story?
THE EMOJI MOVIE invites viewers into the world of Textopolis, a colorful city inside the phone of a teenager named Alex (voiced by Jake T. Austin). Populated entirely by emojis, Textopolis is a town in which everyone has a single role/expression, and their job is to perform that role flawlessly when Alex needs to send a text. Chaos ensues when eager young "meh" face Gene (T.J. Miller) freaks out on his first day at work and exhibits many different expressions, leading Alex to think something might be wrong with his phone. Head emoji Smiler (Maya Rudolph) is determined to keep Textopolis perfect -- and protected -- so she labels Gene a malfunction. His only hope is to track down a hacker by the name of Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to see whether he can be reprogrammed to correctly fulfill his "meh" destiny. So with the help of new friend Hi-5 (James Corden), Gene leaves Textopolis and ventures into the other apps on Alex's phone. But does Gene really need to be "fixed"?
Is it any good?
It's pretty risky to center a movie around the concept of "meh," which basically means "unimpressive," if you're not going to knock it out of the park -- and this one unfortunately doesn't. The Emoji Movie isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. It's "meh." Kids will definitely enjoy the colorful characters, easy-to-follow story, and potty humor ("we're number two!" the poop emoji and his son exclaim). Young viewers are also sure to catch the movie's positive messages about teamwork, friendship, and being yourself. Plus, the voice cast is pretty good. Rudolph is gleefully manic as Smiler, and there are some standouts in the supporting cast. No one is better at doing a "meh" voice than Steven Wright (as Gene's dad, Mel Meh), and Jennifer Coolidge matches him as Mel's monotone wife, Mary. And did we mention that the aforementioned poop emoji is voiced by none other than Sir Patrick Stewart?
But most audience members old enough to actually own phones will probably realize that much of The Emoji Movie's plot is predictable (it feels like a mashup of Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph, with a dash of The Wizard of Oz) and its humor only so-so. Don't be alarmed if your mind wanders and you start asking yourself questions like: "How many kids have even heard of Dropbox?" and "Why do Gene and his parents get 'people' names, while Smiler and Hi-5 just have emoji names?" and "Would a real teenager really call someone to make a tech appointment at the phone store?" If you need something else to think about, try to figure out how you'd describe the movie's plot using just emojis. Just don't pull out your phone in the theater!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Emoji Movie's themes and messages. What does it mean when characters say, "What good is it to be number one if there aren't any other numbers"? How do the characters learn the value of teamwork?
At one point, a character says of someone that "none of these people know him, but they 'like' him -- and that's what matters in this life, popularity." Do you think it's true that, in the age of social media, people want fans more than friends?
Which parts of the movie were scary to you? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Kids: Do you like communicating using emojis? Why or why not? Do you know what they all mean?
- In theaters: July 28, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: October 24, 2017
- Cast: T.J. Miller, James Corden, Patrick Stewart
- Director: Anthony Leondis
- Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: rude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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