Arguing Against Tony Goldmark re: The Emoji Movie

So I love Tony Goldmark, but he said something on Twitter today that didn't sit right with me.

"Glad they finally opened that Friendly Argument section."

I swear I'm doing this out of love for the guy. Signal-boosting. And since I can't access Twitter at work, here's his statement.
Okay, hot take of the decade, but it's my opinion and I'm sticking with it:

Y'all motherfuckas ain't giving THE EMOJI MOVIE a chance.

The trailer looks no worse than the other kajillion CGI kids movies released in the last few years. You just hate it already because emojis. And why? WRECK-IT RALPH took place in video games and everyone loved it. Why not a phone?

"Well, exactly! It's a WRECK-IT RALPH rip-off!" I guess... in the same way SLEEPING BEAUTY was a SNOW WHITE rip-off, I guess. It's only the second "what if lines of code had feelings" movie. The premise hasn't been done to death. There's room to play in the sandbox. No, I know EXACTLY why everyone who gave WRECK-IT RALPH a chance is hating on THE EMOJI MOVIE without seeing it.

WRECK-IT RALPH was based on nostalgic shit from your childhood. THE EMOJI MOVIE is based on shit from children's current childhoods. And because it's based on some NEW dadblasted millennial contraption that didn't exist when you were a kid, it has no right to exist, right?

I promise you, if RALPH had come out in the 80's, it would've gotten that same reception. Hell, no critics took TRON seriously at the time. Instead, RALPH came out in 2012, when it didn't make a lick of sense that kids would still be hanging out at arcades. So it was brilliant.

Will THE EMOJI MOVIE be good? I don't fucking know, I haven't seen it. But it MIGHT be. There, I said it.

First, my counter-arguments. I don't believe the timeliness or "millenniality" is a contributing factor. Yes, Wreck-It Ralph leaned heavily on nostalgia for appeal, but it used video games from a variety of generations. Its three main pastiches ("Wreck It-Ralph", "Hero's Duty", "Sugar Rush") were "Donkey Kong" (1981), Halo (2001), and a Candy Crush (2012) skin of Mario Kart (which is timeless).

I don't think people older than millennials hate emojis. They use them as much as kids. Commercials feature them for a variety of products (no Viagra ones yet, but there's still time). I would welcome a hard-hitting drama about a YouTuber or a Tinder-based romcom or The Minecraft Movie (in the vein of Lego). Those situations are rife with good story elements and drama. And nostalgia has the advantage that the good is remembered and the bad is forgotten (i.e., no pog movie yet).

And I'm not questioning the premise either, though I think the "what if X had feelings" is just a flavor of anthropomorphizing. That's been in entertainment since the wee days -- animals, furniture, nature. There are similarities, but those are superficial. It's pretty clear it's not trying to duplicate the essential parts of Wreck-It Ralph.

HOWEVER... based on its most recent trailer, its plot points have a lot in common with INSIDE OUT. 1) The protagonists exist in a sub-world of the human world. 2) This sub-world exists for the benefit of a single human who "owns" it. 3) Beings of this sub-world are archetyped to single defining emotions 4) The main character is being forced to feel an emotion he doesn't want to 5) (and this is the biggest) The main plot is "I'm lost". The character falls out of his home and must journey through "weird-land" with a reluctant sidekick. Hey, I'm just calling them like I'm seeing them.

Finally, context. I think it's unfair to compare Wreck-It Ralph to The Emoji Movie and not just because it's Disney against... well, any other animation studio. More on that later. But while one could argue that games like Q*Bert and Tapper and Donkey Kong didn't have stories, they DID have context. They were basic bad guy vs. good guy situations, but they existed. And the movie expands on that. That's its very theme--what makes a bad guy bad?

Brings a tear to my eye every time

But emojis do not have context. They are hieroglyphics. It's like making a movie based on letters. Video games have a rich history to draw from. Emojis are symbols to which meaning must be derived. This movie is adding context to something that's not there. And while there's no monopoly on the "what if X had feelings?" story, you're only ever going to be seen as scavenging Pixar's trash bin unless you really have an original idea.

No, my prejudicial hate for The Emoji Movie is based on entirely different reasons.

Like I said, it's unfair to compare anything to Disney. On the other hand, this is Sony Animation Studios. Their last five animated releases were Smurfs: The Lost Village, Surf's Up 2: WaveMania (featuring the voices of real WWE wrestlers), Open Season: Scared Silly, Goosebumps, and Hotel Transylvania 2.

Titanic. The Musical. With talking animals. It had a rapping dog. Someone thought this was art.
And as the generation who experienced this wave first hand--the wave of poorly written, poorly produced films to sell toys (My Pet Monster, Care Bears, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, G.I. Joe, even my beloved Garfield ... heck, just look at the first year of Nostalgia Critic videos), I can see the signs like I am a friggin' prophet. Studios are mass-producing CG schlock to make a few bucks or fill out their schedule. Cheap animation, no story, and movie-makers who just don't care. And nothing's worse than art made by people who don't care.

And let's look who's working on it. The director's other movies were Igor, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, and Kronk's New Groove. The writers were responsible for two of those, plus School of Rock and Big Hero 6 (I'm skipping all their no-names). The first-credited stars are Anna Faris and T.J. Miller -- fine actors and comedians, but arguably two of the most annoying voices in Hollywood today.

We are living in a world of The Boss Baby, Norm of the North, Storks, Trolls, Minions, and Sing. And God help you if you start perusing the bowels of the Kids' Animation genre on Netflix. The way they're marketing has the same feel of that crap too, the feel of The Angry Birds Movie and Pixels (as in "hey, you recognize this! Now watch the movie!"). Just garbage where the main selling factor is pop culture, either old or new, standing on the droppings of giants. They're clearly capitalizing on a fad. So why shouldn't I pre-emptively hate it, when it's got all the earmarks of those movies I just mentioned.

The jokes are low brow and dumb. The characters have no personality or thought put in. The story is a rough draft. Every piece of marketing makes sure to mention that one of the characters is poop. That tells me the intended audience is the lowest common denominator. Even the name! "The Emoji Movie" That's not a title, that's a pitch. It's not named after the main character or the theme or setting. It's a clear indication that no one behind the film cares.* This pisses me off because the money that went towards this movie could have gone to the new Labyrinth or Pulp Fiction or even a Men in Black. Something with a little risk. Something without an existing IP.

The Emoji Movie has a high bar to jump to distinguish itself from all the other junk being released these days. And it sure doesn't look like it's going to clear it. I'm not denying it has a chance. If you drop a fork, it has "a chance" that it'll float instead of falling on the floor. But given the evidence, would you take that bet?

*It occurs to me that The Lego Movie had the same thing, and it was awesome. One of my all-time favorite movies. So that may be a point in Tony's favor. However, I'll point out that The Lego Movie did it first, and I believe others are copying it. So this one's a push.

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