Sure, The Emoji Movie never sounded like a good idea, but if there’s anything Hollywood has has proven in the past decade, it’s this: flagrant cash-grabs can be salvaged when the right talent is given enough creative control — 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, 22 Jump Street. Okay, I’m just talking about movies made by Chris Miller and Phil Lord.
The Emoji Movie isn’t made by Miller and Lord, and that is immediately obvious from the trailer, which appears to superficially borrow from their work without quite getting its deeper appeal. The pitch is nearly as generic as its title.
“Welcome to the world inside your phone,” says Jean the Meh Emoji, “where everyone is expected to act one way their whole life.” The remainder of the trailer is full of poo jokes, sight gags, and snippets of dialogue that Jean will learn to be himself, while also respecting where he comes from.
In two and half minutes, Jean fails to make a correct “Meh” face, gets kicked to the “Loser Lounge,” begins a quest to fit in, and has the inevitable epiphany. (“My feelings are huge, maybe I’m meant to have more than one emotion.”)
It’s shamelessly rote, as if it was designed as a parody trailer within a movie about a craven studio director who makes all of his decisions using Google Trends. The trailer ends with two Poo Emoji shouting, “We’re number two!” That may be the trailer’s most meta joke, an unintentional act of self-critique.