I suppose this film was inevitable. The prevalence of smartphones and their huge array of apps was, sooner or later, going to be a bankable movie product, and I dare say the film actually starts out surprisingly clever, with some notable observations about the pace of life these days, and the way in which we socialise (or don’t) thanks to our phones. The theme of the film is expression, so maybe, just maybe, in a subtle way, it’s trying to encourage its target audience (kids) to put the phones down and talk to each other. I’m not actually sure if that’s what’s going on, as the film is quite ‘meh’.
That’s actually quite ironic, given what the film is going for about expressing one’s self. Instead of being confined to a set role in life, this film is all about being different and not letting societal norms rule you. One character actually makes this point quite strongly regarding expectations for girls (only to send a confused message about this later, but I’ll come back to that). The trouble for the movie is, it just isn’t all that interesting, despite the flashy scenes and up-to-date pop music score (which is frankly more grating than great). Since the film is about apps that seem to encourage short attention spans, it’s not a surprise to see the film jump around in the same manner. This makes it quite disjointed.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t funny moments. Sir Patrick Stewart as the ‘Poop’ emoji proves to be quite entertaining, if underused (there is also one ‘red alert’ moment that had me laughing out loud). The trouble is, none of the characters are particularly interesting or engaging, and you don’t feel invested in what happens to them. Maybe kids would relate more, I don’t know.
Coming back to the feminist angle, we get a character trying to shrug off female stereotypes, only to embrace one of them in order to save the day. Maybe that can be interpreted as ‘you can still be feminine and tough’, but given how the film sets up this character, it’s a bit of a weird ‘about-face’ on that one.
All in all, there are better kids’ films out there, so I wouldn’t waste time on this one. 6/10.