An Icon of Lost Potential

Emoji

 

In today’s world, the phone isn’t used quite as the inventors pictured, with actual calling being replaced by texting and snapchat.  But one item has been developed to replace the words that are too difficult to write: Emojis. In desperation, Sony has developed a film about these icons in an attempt to break the bank with another hit animated series.  Can they succeed, or will this movie be nothing but a bombardment of sad faced emojis?  Robbie K here to answer that question for you with another review.

 

LIKES:

 

The Animation:  You can say a lot of negative things about the movie, but one plus for this reviewer is the beautiful display Sony’s team has designed.  Like many movies, the characters move with fluid grace, transitioning through their adventure with little jumpiness.  High Five (James Corden) in particular has impressive moves, as having a hand expand beyond simple hand movements can be tricky business.  In addition, I enjoyed the visualization of the world within our phone, finding clever design in the development of the internal universes of each app (primarily Instagram’s frozen pictures).  I’ll admit, the characters aren’t realistic like Pixar, or even super creative design, but there is cleverness in the world itself.

 

It’s Cute:  When it comes to cartoons/animated marvels, the pendulum can swing to either side of the age spectrum.  Fear not those with little kids, this movie is certainly geared towards the younger side, filled to the brim with color, simplistic jokes, and over the top slapstick that will make many giggle.  Sure, there are a few drier jokes that adults will get, but for the most part this movie goes back to basics for family friendliness.  One won’t have to worry about inappropriate gestures or innuendos in this film.

 

The Morals:  Movies are a powerful tool to teach the lessons we humans are too ignorant to learn from mentors, school, and the quickly fading trend of reading.  Emoji’s movie solid lesson of being yourself and not conforming to the traditional ways is as good rehash of the traditional lesson.  Those who stand out from the norm will find great relevance to Gene (T.J. Miller)  and Jailbreak’s (Anna Faris) quest and most likely grab on to the characters.  It’s also always good to see a lesson in friendship as well, quoting the movie as “Better to have one good friend, than a bunch of fake fans followers”.  The strong emphasis on this will hopefully break through the persistent firewalls of your subconscious and get you contacting your buddies.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Story:  Despite the morals infused into the story, the overall quality of Gene’s tale is very basic at best.  The Emoji movie has little sustenance to it, diving more into cramming the jokes in the short run time. After all the world building I had hoped for a little more depth to navigating the apps, facing the dangers of the cyber terror that lurk in our phones. I wanted suspense! I wanted exploration of a selection of apps. I wanted an adventure that had a little more depth behind it. I got very little of that.  All the obstacles they faced were fairly easy to circumvent, and often not worth mentioning at how lame they were. Certainly, they did a few things right (Just Dance 4), but for the most part, it was a huge loss of potential at decoding the craziness of our obsession with phones.

 

Humor:  Humor can be fun when balanced, but unfortunately Emoji movie lacks that balance, once again swinging the pendulum to the younger audience.  Most of the jokes are very simple statements that lack any finesse, or decent delivery to maximize the laughs. Much of the humor is dry, and although has adult components, lacks that clever zing that other films/programs do. James Corden rectifies this a little with High Fives self-absorbed personality, but even his banter gets stale after a while.  With all of the comedians in this movie, I really had expected more of this movie, but again missed potential.

 

Boring: If you haven’t gleamed it from the first two categories, then this should sum this up, Emoji movie is boring. There is no suspense to the adventure, and let’s face it no point, to the challenges at hand.  I found myself looking at the clock wondering how much longer I had in the ridiculous presentation of smart phone gimmicks.  Cute is always great, but it is better left to YouTube and Kid shows that are in short spans of time. Without the jokes to back it up, nor an impressive voice performance, there is just little to scream entertainment outside of watching a child’s smile light up at the colorful presentation.

 

The VERDICT:

 

You’ve seen the reviews of my colleagues, and they aren’t far from the truth… Emoji movie was a miss for Sony in terms of quality.  The lackluster jokes, lack of challenge, and reserved wit were not the right steps to take in this inconsistent adventure for success.  In fact, the best thing of this film is the animated short for Hotel Transylvania that precedes it.  Still, if you are looking for a safe, family trip to the movies, you’ve got the Emoji movie to save your bacon.  However, I highly recommend reserving this one for Netflix. 

 

My scores are:

 

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  4.0

Movie Overall:  2.0  

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Descending Further Into Quality

Descendants 2

 

Robbie K here with a little change up.  Instead of hitting the silver screen with this review, I analyze the latest Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) to premier tonight.  Our film focus tonight, the sequel to Disney’s latest merchandise extravaganza Descendants.  If you don’t know what this series is about, it focuses on the offspring of the Disney villains and their quest to find themselves amidst a plethora of chaotic assignments.  Like many DCOMs, legendary director Kenny Ortega returns to bring you music and kid-friendly drama that keeps breathing life into Disney Channel.  Tonight, the sequel is back to keep the momentum going and try to retain some quality back to the cable network.

 

LIKES:

 

Villain Kids:  In most movies, the story is only as good as the antagonists to fight and in this case Uma (China Anne McClain) is an improvement over last movie’s band of baddies.  Descendants one tried to reinstate the classic baddies, with subpar casting and actors who semi looked the part. The direction of the movie though put the kids in the forefront and the villains in the back, resulting in rather boring/cheesy performances.  With the kids being the focus, the new villain of Uma gets the focus and development needed, and her malicious planning are nice qualities.  Her second in command Harry Hook (Thomas Doherty) is the enforcer who has some mad skills to bring to the table and actually does something to up the ante in a rather calm series.  With kids at the focus, the doors open wide for more adventure at hand.

 

The Message:  DCOM movies are all about teaching a lesson, and Descendants 2 keeps that time honored magic alive.  Where Descendants was all about not being your parents and marking your own path, the sequel focuses on finding yourself as the main theme.  A good lesson we can all use a refresher on that only loses a little power by the preachy delivery.  Of course, there are other minor plots to help teach a few more subjects on friendship, courage, confidence, and knowing when a rule needs to have a new spin. All good messages for young ones to get bombarded with, and an applause at Disney doing it right.

 

The Story:  The first movie did a nice job introducing all the relationships of the world while embedding it in plots of doing villains’ bidding, but also battling yourself when morals conflict. Yet the story was very simple and lacked the kick that it needed to be fully entertaining.  Descendants 2 was a step up, building on those relationships and using them to tell a new story that involved exploring more of the isle.  The added “suspense” was again a step in the right direction, and the increased urgency only brought more suspense to the mix. 

 

The Songs:  By far my favorite component was the soundtrack.  After seeing Descendants a thousand times over the last two years, I made my list and found only a couple of songs I found timeless.  In this installment, the five out of six tracks will most likely be coming to my Ipod.  The dance numbers were much better for me and they fit very well into the theme of the movie instead of just being jammed in at random intervals ( see Evil Like Me and Ridiculous).  The new soundtrack has edge and really kicks up the beat.  Nice improvements guys.

Acting:  One thing I must give props to though, is the acting.  Descendants cast is super talented and each brings a dynamic energy to the movie that really sparks magic into the DCOM world.  Dove Cameron steals the show with her fantastic ability to direct a character and mold it into a believable performance.  She also brings singing and dancing to the mix that mirrors the emotions present in her character. Cameron Boyce as Carlos has the energy and moves to impress, even more this time with the dance numbers.  Sofia Carson is brains, beauty, and passion with focus on her singing coming out in this movie.  Sofia’s dramatic air somehow brings the group together and keeps the extreme personalities grounded.  Booboo Stewart as Jay has more lines in this movie, and brings that action packed, stunt oriented edge the movie continues to need.  Just maximize his talents more please.  Finally Mitchell Hope does a nice job as King Ben, reprising his well to the full effect and refining it to meet the needs of the scene.  The cast’s chemistry is impressive and Ortega’s guidance keeps things strong, selling the relationships that this movie depends on.  

Dislikes:

 

Dropped plot elements: If you haven’t followed the animated shorts and accompanying books, then this won’t affect you.  However, the super fanbase will note other characters missing from Auradon’s halls.  Many characters are absent in this film, and even those from the first film have been reduced to back burner secondary appearances with little involvement in the main plot.  Audrey, Jane, even Doug are not nearly as involved, most likely to give the newbies more screen time.  Unfortunately…

New elements lacking:  Outside of Uma and maybe Harry, many of the new characters are also reduced to smaller roles than I anticipated.  Newcomers Dizzy (Anna Cathcart) and Gil (Dylan Playfair) have been the highlights of the recent advertising campaign, but sadly don’t do much in this film.  In addition, many of the dramatic buildups, foreshadowing, and magic are actually played less than I originally thought.  Guess dancing and sword fighting are more important than complete plots.  One warning I have for future installments is to not grow so big to drop other characters, or face the threat of devouring yourself by inconsistencies.

Rushed Plot:  Descendants holds a lot of potential to be an epic tale, and that first book by De La Cruz was an epic introduction filled with that potential.  The movies unfortunately have lost that balance and go for the rather rushed conclusions that make many DCOMs lacking.  Number 2 did not improve on this element, but worsened as they tried to shove too many plots into the short run-time.  Much of the conflict is dropped quickly, the tasks and trials are rapidly completed, and new elements are haphazardly dropped without any buildup or heat.  I know they are shooting for time constraints, but with something this big… you can take your time and go a little longer.  Younger audiences won’t care about this, but older ones like me would appreciate a little more dramatic play ups.  In addition, don’t set up potential plots and drop them like a bad habit (see Chad Charming subplot).  That incomplete presentation is a little disappointing with legendary directors in the mix.

 

Anticlimatic ending:  I know, this is a movie geared for younger generations, we can’t have too violent of a fight.  The sword fight did a decent job of bringing the appropriate action especially the tangle between Harry and Jay (Booboo Stewart).  However, another struggle at the end showed off some semi-decent computer work in a very…bland manner.  I can’t reveal much more, but an epic tangle could have come in that wasn’t so…abruptly stopped.  Kids watch lion King, Aladdin, and Incredibles, they can handle more than G rated punches.  Add some “fire” to the mix, or throw in some close calls to mix things up and actually bring fear to the mix.

 

The Verdict:

 

Overall, Descendants 2 stepped its game up on many levels with their villains, story, and songs.  Yet it still succumbs to the modern spin on DCOMs to go for musical gimmicks and diluted themes that while entertaining are not the only sustenance of the film.  Descendants 2 story has room for improvement in regards to integrating its characters more, and could take a lesson from the books in regards to adding some suspense to the film.  Still, it is one of the better DCOMs I have seen in a long time, and certainly the more impressive sequel to grace the small screen.  With a little more work and some other feedback from you fans… Descendants 3 (which I feel will come) can be even more exciting. 

 

My scores:

 

Family/Musical/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  6.0