My texts are widely known (disparaged?) for their proper capitalization, syntax, and punctuation. Rarely, though, do I allow the words to speak for themselves. In the Simpler Times™️, I might have adorned iMessages with a “;)” or a “:P,” when feeling particularly playful. More elaborate constructs, ASCII emoticons in nerd parlance, never suited me. Why go through the pains of a “Sup Son” when “:-/”communicated the same ennui with fewer thumb strokes? The moment that emoji–yes, everyone, that is the preferred plural form–crossed the delicate threshold separating tween convos from adult dialogue, my reaction was a decided 🤔. Or was it 😐? Either way, I am now smitten. The emoji keyboard is imprinted on my cerebral cortex in a way that its QWERTY forebear never will be. If there were applications to the Unicode Consortium, I would hand mine in yesterday.

Imagine my delight, the ecstatic 😱+😍, with which I greeted the first rumors of “The Emoji Movie.” Now imagine my face as I exited the theater. No emoji face, hand, or symbol alone adequately reflects the feeling. Perhaps this chronology will do:

😏 (light amusement around 2:00) ➡️
😬 (visible grimace around 5:01 after the first “joke” landed with a theater-shaking thud) ➡️
😦 (creeping disbelief through 30:00) ➡️
😒 (unmitigated annoyance by 59:59) ➡️
🤢 (a well of sickness, aided by rapid ICEE consumption, rising around 1:00:00) ➡️
😶 (loss of recognizable human emotion, cut to credits)

Why, Sony Pictures Animation did you consider this fit for public screening? Why, director Tony Leondis did you presumably let your toddler control access to the dailies? WHY, SIR PATRICK STEWART, would you sully your rep as everyone’s #BFFgoals to turn in a 💩 rendering of 💩?

‘Tis wise to simply enumerate the reasons why this release has garnered a cool 1.7/10 rating on The Tribune or why the aggregators at Metacritic score it an abysmal 12/100. First, and absolutely foremost, the misguided executives who bankrolled “The Emoji Movie” thought they could ride the “Inside Out” lightning to box office glory. The latter film restored my reverence for Pixar’s magical marriage of whimsy and profundity. How dare this screenplay, probably scribbled hastily on a CPK napkin one Friday at 6:30, blatantly plunder from its incalculably superior counterpart? Where one deployed gorgeous animation and nonpareil casting to mine the childhood psyche, the other uses actual depictions of emotions to hawk Silicon Valley’s wares (😤). I kid you not: Dropbox is the key to the anthropomorphic emoji’s salvation. Drop. Box. (🙄) Second, the animation team rendered my beloved icons as if making a 2017 Simpsons movie using the 1987 Tracey Ullman Show sketchbook. Or if one were shooting a live-action Sesame Street movie with Times Square ElmoFrom T.J. Miller‘s lead character “Meh” to Rich Dietl‘s “Nerd Emoji,” the denizens of our pocket horcruxes have been drained of all joy. You had one job, filmmakers: make these modern-day hieroglyphs come to life and delight audiences. The result is at least a genuine 🤦🏻‍♂️.

What passes as a story never could have appealed to an adolescent demographic and will be justifiably panned by the adult audience. Emoji live in Textopolis, a sloppy analogue to the “Lego Movie” environment (👎🏼). This city-state flourishes inside young Alex’s (Jake T. Austin) phone. (Are there millions of parallel Textopoli on other phones? Hopefully the emoji have a Kierkegaard facsimile to handle their surefire existential crisis.) Alex has got his eye on a girl and wants to woo her via text. Emoji must perform precisely when called upon by their human masters. There can be no mistakes (🙅🏻‍♂️). Anomalies are forbidden (🙎🏽). Foul-ups lead to . . . termination (💀). Can you guess how our hero handles his début in the keyboard? He causes Alex to totes 💣 any pursuit of his beloved. Meh’s aberrant behavior leads to escape and conjures the least inspiring “to thine own self be true” children’s movie plot this side of “No More Baths.” All your fave apps phone in appearances to coax a knowing chuckle (“People on Facebook only talk about themselves!” “YouTube is only for adorable cat videos!). Even the Twitter bird swoops in for a pivotal cameo. I might have invented new ways to fidget in a theater seat enduring this desecration of all that is digitally holy.

Do not get me started on Meh’s sidekick, Hi-5. In what I want to believe is the ultimate act of trollery–in a movie that features grotesque images of reddit or 4chan commenters–our co-traveler is the human emoji best known for murdering pop hits in a minivan alongside their creators. The only inspired casting choice was the instantly recognizable Steven Wright as Meh’s father Mel. (I’ll sacrifice a begrudging 👌🏼 on that one.)

Is there really nothing redeeming about this movie? No, my fellow cineastes, there is not. The sawbuck you drop (or more, if you choose a 3D screening) will not just 💸; it will spontaneously combust. I was even prepared to revel in the movie’s nod to misfit characters 🍥, 🗿, and 🏺. But then I’m supposed to believe that 🍆 would be relegated to the same “Loser Lounge.” My 🍑.

Please, I beg you, do not encourage this abomination. If you need added disincentive, “The Emoji Movie” comes packaged with “Puppy!,” wherein a vampire voiced by Adam Sandler obtains the titular, untamable pet for his impish granddaughter. You’ve been duly warned. Lock away the 84 minutes you would have squandered and watch this comparatively Oscar-worthy emoji movie instead (🤷🏻‍♂️).

CLGJr Verdict: 🆘      

The Emoji Movie opened Friday, July 28.

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