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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

Alex is pretty much like every other young school kid out there these days: He's got a phone, and he knows how to use it. So when he finally catches Addie's eye—a girl who is, well, pretty much the cutest girl in the whole school—he knows he has to put his best digital foot forward.

With determination, Alex scans his emoji list to find just the right symbol to express his witty fun side while still being, you know, casually cool. He sets up his message and reaches out for the perfect emoticon and …

… inside his phone, down deep in the city of Textopolis where all those emojis live, there's something of a panic going on. You see, this is the first day of work for Gene, a budding young emoji in the Meh family. He's determined to be a great Meh, just like his father, Mel, and his mom, Mary.

But as Alex hits the Meh symbol and the phone tech begins its scanning process to capture a perfect picture of Gene, the inexperienced Meh overreacts. And that's a problem. After all, emoji are supposed to be exactly what they are. If they're a smiley face, they grin all the time. If they're a poop emoji, they're always the perfect dollop of brown, ice cream-like swirl.

Gene, however, is no one-trick emoji. He can express a wide range of emotions. It's not supposed to be that way, but he can't help himself. So, when his moment comes, instead of looking suitably bored, Gene's Meh face goes out looking like a blend of panic, revulsion and maybe just a dash of seasickness.

Pretty Addie gets the message and looks at Alex with a quizzical expression. And in that moment Alex realizes what he somehow just sent to the cutest of cutes and sighs in frustration. "Oh, man," he thinks, "I've gotta get this dumb phone checked out."

Of course, as Alex makes an appointment to meet with the techs at the phone store, everyone in Textopolis realizes with a shock that this could be the end for them all. Because of Gene's foolish mistake, they could all be wiped clean. Maybe if they could simply delete Gene, Alex would forget about this little mistake.

But Gene doesn't want to be deleted. Nor does he want to be the catalyst for a cataclysmic phone wipe either. There's only one solution: He'll somehow have make his way through the phone to a mythical land known as … The Cloud. Surely there he can be reprogrammed to become the productive, uni-emotive Meh he was born to be.

He can finally be rid of all his other bothersome emotions.

And he can save the emoji world.

Positive Elements

Gene wants to do the right thing and to find his purpose. And though the head emoji, Smiley, sends out destructive bots to eliminate him, Gene isn't upset with the rest of the emoji world. He just wants to fix things, if possible. Though he doesn't necessarily want to be emotionless, he would rather do that and become a productive member of society than hurt others with his naturally ebullient, uh, emoji-nality.

Newfound friends Hi-5 and Jailbreak are determined to aid Gene. And they put themselves in danger to help the expressive guy find his way through the phone's apps and make it to The Cloud. While there, they hope to get a little reprogramming themselves. Hi-5, a hand emoji, wants to become popular again, while Jailbreak wants to make something more of herself (beyond being the princess emoji that she's hiding beneath a wig and scruffy clothes).

Initially, Hi-5 is also convinced that productive members of the phone community only need "likes" and "fans." But he eventually realizes that friends are far more important. In fact, Gene sums things up after being told that he needs to simply watch out for #1. "What's so good about being #1 if there aren't any other numbers?" he asks.

Gene's mom and dad, for their part, are quite concerned about their struggling son. So they take steps to protect Gene and express their love to him. In fact, Mel Meh blames himself for his son's troubles: He admits he's sometimes struggled to express his own emotions, too.

Ultimately, this gaggle of shorthand symbols realizes that life is full of valuable emotions. An emoji doesn't have to be just one predetermined feeling. And, the film teaches, we should all strive to be the best version of ourselves—either as an emoji or as a human—that we can be.

An Instagram app pic of Alex and his parents shows them hugging and enjoying a vacation together. Gene's mom and dad, who've been arguing, reconnect while exploring one of those photos and apologize for a disagreement, expressing their love for each other.

Spiritual Content

A devil emoji gets into the action and tries to make a lame scatological joke. But Poop tells him, "Aim higher, Steven." When Gene and Jailbreak come to rescue Hi-5 from the phone's trash bin, he mistakes them for angels coming to take him to a digital afterlife.

Sexual Content

Gene hugs a pizza emoji and pulls away with two round slices of pepperoni stuck to his chest as a silly anatomical wink. Alex's phone plays a brief clip of a song called "Bubblebutt." A flamenco dancer emoji promises Hi-5 a dance—as long as he isn't "all hands" again, she says.

Violent Content

Robotic, Terminator-like baddies pursue Gene and his friends, blasting them with lasers. (There are some digital "casualities" here, with zapped characters dematerializing when they're hit.) Our heroes go through some thumping falls, including an app erasure that essentially causes a colorful digital environment to crash, crumble and disintegrate. And Hi-5 falls into a deep cavern that leads to the phones trash bin.

Near the film's conclusion, a phone erasure threatens an apocalyptic end for all the inhabitants of Textopolis. A happy emoji keeps laughing even though he's just been in an accident. "I can see the bone," he calls out through his chuckles. While attempting to make it past the phone's firewall, Gene gets blasted with flames repeatedly.

Crude or Profane Language

In a moment of panic Poop says, "Oh, sh—"; another character finishes that exclamation, saying, "Shoot!" Other mild outbursts include: "Oh my gosh," "Watch it Knucklebutt," "Sweet Motherboard" and "Jiminy Sassafras!" A punctuation emoticon groans, "Oh my colon." Someone's called a "freak." A lone use of "What the … ?" is left incomplete.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None of the film's characters drink. But one app in the phone is portrayed as something of a hidden speakeasy, complete with a bartender and little bottles of booze.

Other Negative Elements

Poop is—predictably—employed as a frequent go-to character for giggles. He and his son walk out of a bathroom stall and laugh about the idea of having to wash their hands, for instance. We hear them chant, "We're number 2!" Etc. We also learn that Hi-5 has a sugar addiction, opening the door to jokes about sugar highs and regurgitation.

One of the apps in Alex' phone proves to be nothing but a "skin" designed to hide other unseemly programs. "What could a teen possibly want to hide from his parents?" Gene wonders in connection to that secretive app. And some of the apps in the movie seem to be promoting real-world products.

Conclusion

If you scanned your smartphone you'd likely be able to find a suitable emoji to represent this airy little social media-inspired movie. That said, you'd probably end up choosing someone from Gene Meh's family tree.

There's not a lot here either to blow heart kisses at or shoot steam out of your nostrils over. It's just 86 minutes of mostly innocuous gags winking at all the techy, appy things of our world while delivering a halfhearted "you can follow your dreams and be who you want to be" message for the kids along the way.

That's not a bad thing. But when the height of your humor is repeated quips connected to the poop emoji and the strongest emotive commentary made is that female emojis don't want to be just a Princess or a Bride, well, there's nothing here to get all choked up about either.

Quite frankly, the kids would probably be far more entertained if you just let them play with your phone.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Voices of T.J. Miller as Gene; James Corden as Hi-5; Anna Faris as Jailbreak; Maya Rudolph as Smiler; Steven Wright as Mel Meh; Jennifer Coolidge as Mary Meh; Patrick Stewart as Poop; Sofía Vergara as Flamenca; Jake T. Austin as Alex; Tati Gabrielle as Addie

Director

Tony Leondis ( )

Distributor

Columbia Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

July 28, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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