"The Emoji Movie" misses its target

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-18 03:52:23|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Julia Pierrepont III

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Grossing only 83.8 million U.S. dollars in the North America and 95 million U.S. dollars internationally as of Sunday, Sony's "The Emoji Movie" could have been a much bigger blockbuster, but missed its target.

Unable to decide on which target audience to focus on, the movie took its central theme of being "all it could be" a bit too far, trying to satisfy kids, teens and adults alike. But, by ranging too widely, it fell short of creating what could have been a "misfit-makes-good" Hollywood classic, like "Kung Fu Panda."

Industry pundit, Jeff Gund of Infolist, told Xinhua, "Knowing your target audience for a film is critical for its success and, these days, knowing how to market to that audience is even more so."

But, says the star of the film, TJ Miller, in its defense, "It's funny, it's silly, it's very self-aware and everyone feels like they're in on the joke."

Despite some very colorful and amusing characters and storylines, "The Emoji Movie" failed to deliver on its initial promise, receiving only a 10 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a combined Metacritic Score of just 12 percent.

Variety called it "a mostly witless 'Inside Out' knockoff" and Common Sense Media concluded, "It is pretty risky to center a movie around the concept of 'meh' , which basically means 'unimpressive,'if you're not going to hit it out of the park - and this one unfortunately doesn't."

The film centers around Gene, a "Meh" emoji, born inside the cellphone of a boy named Alex in the fantastical world of Textopolis, where all the emoji's live and work hoping to be chosen to send texts between humans. "Meh" is a catch-all American term used to convey boredom, non-commitment, or "I don't care" indifference. Such as: "Want to see The Emoji Movie?" "Meh."

Despite some interesting ideas in this movie, it failed to bring them to life in a compelling way. As visual environments go, the inside of a computer chip is too cold and abstract for a large segment of the audience to relate to.

Movies that bring the human world into the computer graphic world (Tron & Tron Legacy: 205 million U.S. dollars) have tended to fare less well than those that bring the computer world into the human world (The Matrix franchise: 592 million U.S. dollars).

The "misfit-coming-into-its-own" theme is also a powerful meme in young adult pop culture, literature and film, as the hefty book sales and even heftier box office of "Harry Potter" (2.3 billion U.S. dollars), "Hunger Games" (1.4 billion U.S. dollars), "Twilight" (1.3 billion U.S. dollars), and "Divergent" (346 million U.S. dollars) franchises can attest to.

Raging hormones have been known to transform biddable, wide-eyed babies into wild-eyed, post-adolescents with trigger-happy emotions and a gift for self-destructive rebellion.

Psychology Today says, "Adolescence can be a time of both disorientation and discovery. This transitional period can bring up issues of independence and self-identity."

"The Emoji Movie" is far more kid-friendly, but carries the same "Who am I? Why am I different? Why can't I just fit in?" motif in a kinder, gentler package. Acceptance and even celebration of the differences that make up the panoply of human races and culture (or the Emoji Nation) is a laudable goal, especially when it helps viewers transcends the powerful, identity-numbing herd instinct to "fit in," and encourages them to "just be themselves."

So, audiences should identify with Gene when he realizes, "My feelings are huge. Maybe I'm meant to have more than just one emotion. I have so much more;" and his emoji Princess-turned-hacker, Jailbreak, responds, "I think you're pretty cool just the way you are."

But the clarity and focus of the misfit theme that worked so well in "Kung Fu Panda" (215 million U.S. dollars) was notably absent in "The Emoji Movie."

The New York Times said, "This movie's 'believe in yourself' message is borne out, in a perverse way, by the very fact that it even exists. And yet the whole thing remains nakedly idiotic."

Despite it's shortcomings, the emoji characters are well played, with Silicon Valley's TJ Miller voicing Gene, Late Late Show host, James Cordon making Hi-5 a decent comic relief, Anna Faris as feisty Jailbreak, Steve Wright and Jennifer Coolidge gently conveying meh concern as Gene's parents, Maya Rudolph's brilliant, Machiavellian Smiler who sets everyone's teeth on edge, and the incomparable Patrick Stewart, stealing the show as Poop.

With "The Emoji Movie" opening soon in China, we will see if they vote "thumbs up" or "Thumbs down" to the movie.