• by Wes Singleton

The Emoji Movie, D

Rated PG, 91 minutes

Is there emoji for lifeless or dead on arrival? That could very well describe the lackluster, unfunny new animated film "The Emoji Movie," which seems like a great idea on paper and a terrible movie. A great idea and a terrific voice cast is wasted under what is essentially a load of sight gags strung together for a film that even kids will be bored by after the first few minutes.

Hidden inside a smartphone, the bustling city of Textopolis is home to all emojis. Each emoji has only one facial expression, except for Gene (T.J. Miller of "Silicon Valley"), an exuberant emoji with multiple expressions somehow assigned to be the "meh" emoji. Determined to become "normal," Gene enlists the help of his best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and a notorious code breaker called Jailbreak (Anna Faris). During their travels through the other apps, the three emojis discover a great danger that could threaten their phone's very existence.

Directed and co-written by storyboard artist Tony Leondis, "The Emoji Movie" is a cute idea yet seems so rushed, an unfortunate misfire of a film that falls apart within the first few minutes and isn't able to recover. It strives for a "Lego Movie"-style exuberance and originality, and in spite of a few colorful moments, it lacks in just about everything you'd want from something like this: charm, depth and most importantly, laughs. In other words, it's a dreadful experience that even an emoji would have trouble communicating.

Though it may seem like a novel idea casting deadpan comedian Steven Wright as Gene's father, Mel Meh, but it's also the movie's biggest mistake, given the film spends way too much time with him and his mother, Mary Meh, voiced by Jennifer Coolidge; the story seems to come to a grinding halt during their footage. Miller, along with Faris, Corden and "Saturday Night Live's" Maya Rudolph as the chief villain, all try to stir in some laughs, but it's just not that funny.

There are a few grins from the many sight gags, including some throwaway lines from "Star Trek's" Patrick Stewart as the poop emoji ("I'm just doing my duty" and "We're number two"), but those are few and far between as the film tries to generate some excitement from the possibility of an emoji being permanently deleted.

Texting, smartphones and emoji's have all transformed the way we communicate with each other, but the dull and lamely unfunny "The Emoji Movie" will not transform movies, unless you're trying to keep people away from the theater, which it does well. Stay away.

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