Product placement has long left audiences confounded by how unabashed the use of it at times seemingly is when for example Krispy Kreme’s product placement in this year’s Power Rangers was so hilariously excessive that mentioning the context in which the product is featured in the film would actually be considered a spoiler. While Sony had no involvement in 2017’s Power Rangers, they have long been known to inflate the budget of their films by striking deals with anything from Carlsberg to Audi, who then get substantial screen time in return for their financial investments. However, The Emoji Movie easily takes the cake as the most unapologetic example of product placement yet.
The intricacies of product placement and how the use of this element is implemented is an integral part of getting some titles produced, and most viewers undoubtedly shrug it off and choose to focus on the narrative at hand instead. While product placement is a fact of cinematic life, when something like The EmojiMovie comes along, the accusations of product placement run amok should be taken seriously, and a closer look at what is deemed acceptable is definitely also merited. As someone who holds several positions in various sectors of the media industry, what struck me more so than the inexcusable blandness of The Emoji Movie was just how heavy the product placement is, and I did wonder whether the various regulatory authorities I work with would actually allow the film to be shown once it becomes available for broadcasting. This is not so much because they would deem the film inappropriate in itself, but rather because the amount of edits that would likely be required to dial down the product placement could potentially compromise the narrative structure too greatly to maintain its coherence.
As for that narrative, to say that The Emoji Movie is inspired by Inside Out would be putting it mildly. The entire outline about a control center operating without our knowledge, and the characters within that unseen world having an arc that intertwines with the arc of a human protagonist, is blatantly lifted from the 2015 Pixar effort. However, unlike Inside Out, which managed to make both worlds equally engaging, The Emoji Movie treats the human counterparts like the most callous of afterthoughts that they evidently are. Add to that that the film also unashamedly takes elements from The LEGO Movie and Wreck It Ralph, which only serve to make it even more painfully clear that the people behind The Emoji Movie were in no way, shape or form interested in creating something genuinely enjoyable or uniquely creative. Instead, the end result ultimately reeks of the people responsible only being concerned with making a profit from the popularity of emojis, as their popularity is currently significant enough to entice people to buy emoji merchandise such as cushions and keyrings instead of merely using them to add some flavor to their written exchanges. As such, any satirical potential the film’s subject matter had is also completely wasted, just as not a single joke manages to land, not even with the youngest of viewers.
There is nothing wrong with simple humor of the toilet variety if it is executed well, which the recent Captain Underpants is a delightfully silly example of. Thus, when a film is unable to generate laughter when utilizing even the simplest type of humor, one has to question what the point of such a film is. With The Emoji Movie, the point was clearly to make a profit from a contemporary fad, which does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, but in this case the end result is painfully bland and ruthlessly calculating in terms of its product placement. As such, the only thing The Emoji Movie got right was placing its focus on a ‘meh’ emoji, as a one-word review of the film would be just that – ‘meh’.
Verdict: 1 out of 10.