THE EMOJI MOVIE (2017)

The Emoji Movie is part of My Summer of Summer Movies, in which I am attempting to see and review every movie that opens (in Chicago) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Read all about this ill-advised plan here

I would love to write a review of The Emoji Movie, the new animated film directed by Tony Leondis (Igor), starring T.J. Miller, Anna Farris, James Corden, Maya Rudolph, Steven Wright, Patrick Stewart, and a lot of other people who should have known better.

There are many words I could use in such a review, and exactly none of them would be flattering. Most of them would be rather caustic, and many of them would downright cruel. A few of them, very possibly, might be libelous.

But I've encountered a paradox: The Emoji Movie has reliably informed me that "words aren't cool."

I do want to write my review. But I also want, most desperately, to be cool.

Clearly, it is far past time that garrulous and grandiloquent dinosaurs like me accepted our obsolescence, embraced the new normal, and relinquished our silly and sentimental attachment to outdated concepts like "words." (And, in belatedly excising those vain and vestigial notions, we shall also be conveniently ridding ourselves of such quaint and antiquated concepts as "story," "dialogue," and "structure." Begone, lingering curses of a bygone era! We have no need for thee now!)

And so I have decided the thing to do would be to compose my review entirely from emojis, speaking in the language of the film's intended audience.

But I have a problem. I have searched my hard drive, and I have explored my programs, and I have scoured the Web, but I somehow can't seem to find quite the right adorable pictographs to adequately express myself.

So I am asking for help with my computer, as we pathetically old people are prone to do. I am begging the younger generation to point me towards the right websites, the right apps, the right combinations of keystrokes. I simply do not know how to generate the symbols I need, if I am to say what I need to say about The Emoji Movie. 

To set the scene, I need an emoji of a middle-aged critic, growing uncomfortably aware that he is the only adult in a dark theater not accompanied by a child under the age of six. (If said emoji could show the notebook and pen he wields, with defensive ostentation, in order to project an air of professionalism instead of perversion, that would be most useful.)

I need an emoji of that same critic quickly giving up on the idea that there is, or will be, anything worth taking notes on.

I need an emoji of the same critic repeatedly stabbing himself with the same pen, in the fleshy part of his thumb, in a spiritual expression of self-loathing and a practical but futile effort to ward off the irresistibly seductive temptress of sleep for 86 stupefyingly joyless minutes.

Is there an emoji that says, "This thing is bad for the world"?

Is there an emoji that says, "Everyone who sees it gets dumber, and dies a little inside"?

This one might be trickier, but I really need an emoji that expresses a perfect mixture of incredulous horror with creeping, pervasive, spirit-deadening despair.

Is there an emoji that suggests the peculiar disgust we feel when an animated ode to mindless inhumanity and cynical corporate venality pretends to be telling children to always be true to themselves?

I could use an emoji that suggests not only lack of amusement—Hey, I found some of those!—but the sort of absolute mirthlessness that settles so deeply and chillingly into the bones that it leaves one with the unshakable suspicion that nothing and no one will ever seem funny again.

What I could really use is an emoji that somehow captures not just the look, but also the disturbingly unsettling sound and feeling, of being in a room full of very small children who are stubbornly and stoically not laughing at something ostensibly designed to entertain them.

This could be accompanied by an emoji of parents clearly grappling with a subtle but soul-wracking sense of failure: the guilt-ridden realization that they have not only failed to provide their beloved child with a good experience, but actually robbed them of small but precious slivers of their natural joy, imagination, and innocence.

I found many memes of Patrick Stewart "face-palming" in dismay. However—luddite though I am—I am vaguely aware that a meme is different from an emoji. What I really need, therefore, is an emoji of Patrick Stewart clutching a paycheck in one hand while the other cradles his own face in a tear-stained gesture of self-disgust and existential remorse. It should suggest that he is reflecting mournfully on his life's journey: how it took him from the Royal Shakespeare Company, to I, Claudius, to Star Trek, to American Dad, to the new, inexplicable, rock-bottom degradation of personifying a pile of poop in The Emoji Movie. In short, it should—we would hope—depict what addiction-recovery groups refer to as a life-changing moment of clarity.

Then, I need appropriate variations of that emoji for every single director, actor, writer, producer, animator, sound editor, agent, and caterer involved in making The Emoji Movie happen. 

This one may be complicated—if we were still using "words," there might be one in German—but I desperately need an emoji that suggests absolute disdain for absolute disdain. I'm looking for something that expresses the bitter, indignant contempt we feel as we gradually grow aware that the very people who made the "artwork" we are consuming must, themselves, have been filled with contempt: contempt for their own work, and for their art form, and for their audience, and for the paths their lives have taken, and for the entire two-hundred-thousand-year-old human culture that produced them.

Help me out here. Is there an app for that?

The Unaffiliated Critic

Michael G. McDunnah is a freelance writer, a recovering lit major, a pop-culture junkie, and an unaffiliated critic. He lives in Chicago.

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