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The Emoji Movie
  • Composed by Patrick Doyle
  • Sony Classical / 2017 / 63m

Based on the inspirational true story, it is unlikely that Oscar voters will need to watch another film this year after they see The Emoji Movie, currently setting both critics and audiences alight and almost certainly on course to break Avatar‘s box office records.  It tells the story of Gene, an emoji capable of multiple expressions, who lives inside a phone and is assumed to be malfunctioning (and therefore gets hunted down) because he doesn’t always display the emotion expected. 

Even though it’s directed by Tony Leondis, who worked with Patrick Doyle on Igor, The Emoji Movie represents one of the most unlikely composer hirings that any film has ever had.  I suspect I could sit and stare at the album cover and see “The Emoji Movie – Music by Patrick Doyle” for the rest of my life and still not be able to resist physically recoiling at the shock of the association of the first part of that with the second.  Still, he’s a professional and so it should come as no surprise to learn that – no matter what flaws may be present in the film, and I’m led to believe there may be one or two – the music’s good.

Patrick Doyle

It starts with “Emoji”, with a retro Giorgio Moroder-style synth feel to the main theme playing over orchestral bits and bobs (including “Jingle Bells” and “Waltzing Mathilda”) – whenever a passage of twinkly synths appear here and elsewhere in the score, I think Phil Oakley’s about to sing “Together in Electric Dreams” – but he doesn’t.  It’s something very different from Patrick Doyle, inevitably so (he was hardly going to be evoking “Non Nobis Domine” here) but it’s done very well and shows off a hitherto-undisplayed new feather to his bow.

The score is an entertaining synth/orchestral hybrid with numerous fine passages for each of those components.  “Smiler Orientation” has a strident orchestral feel, then not long after comes the synthy “this is what the 21st century will sound like” from the 1980s perspective “Boardroom Terror”.  The score’s greatest asset is its sense of fun: “Let’s Roll” is an absolute blast, Doyle pitching the silly synth style just perfectly.  The occasional mariachi blasts (briefly in the opening cue, later in the otherwise-dark “Smiler’s Illegal Upgrade” always bring a smile to the face.

There’s some decent action, too – “Mehs and Bots” conveys some real peril with the heavy brass, guitars and synths; it’s followed by “Candy Rescue” (you know which candy is being referred to) which is more rollicking fun.  Later, “Gene Choose Hi-5” is really strong stuff, the action opening leading to a touching piano melody.  Yes, even for The Emoji Movie Doyle provides some moments of genuine feeling: it’s an absolutely lovely little passage of music.  Not long later, “Instagram Paris” (I cringe when typing these things) has a warm, sunny feeling evoking a romantic moment of the banks of the Seine.  “The Trash Escape” features a wordless soprano over the synths before a great heroic orchestral blast, creative and unique music.  “The Firewall” has another emotional moment, the piano and strings combining in classy style.  As things near the conclusion, the action ratchets up – “Delete and Rescue” is a fine piece of action/adventure, and of course “Gene Saves Textopolis” brings things to a rousing close.

The Emoji Movie score is probably a bit less than the sum of its parts: the tracks are mostly very short (28 on the hour-long album) and even within them there are often frequent changes of style – but it’s an entertaining piece of work.  It’s not the sort of thing that I imagine Patrick Doyle’s fans would particularly choose him to be working on, but the chance to hear him do something so genuinely different – and to do it well – is hard to resist.  The film may go on to be in cinematic folklore for all the wrong reasons, but the score is bound to entertain.  It will certainly appeal to Doyle’s fans, fans of modern animated scores in general and those who love their fun retro synths.  I doubt that we’ll see it appearing too prominently in future press releases about the composer, but lousy films have often produced good scores in the past and he approached it in the professional manner you’d expect – with great fun the result.

Great fun music that will comfortably outlast the film | |

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  1. Jens Dietrich (Reply) on Saturday 29 July, 2017 at 16:03

    You just sold me a copy of the Emoji Movie soundtrack. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

  2. J.B. (Reply) on Sunday 30 July, 2017 at 03:21

    I listened to this while playing a game last night. Most of it kinda went by without notice but the finale cue was definitely beautiful.

  3. Ad de Nijs (Reply) on Sunday 30 July, 2017 at 10:17

    I can imagine you had a nice time. The association with “Electric dreams” brought back sweet memories, but it only lasted the first few tracks. The rest of the score gave me more the feel of
    “Wreck-it Ralph” from Jackman. Due to the short cues however it became more jumpy and underscoring than that one. Doyle did it indeed professionally and it probably work splendidly in the movie but IMO it’s not satisfying enough to buy the album.

  4. Momo (Reply) on Tuesday 1 August, 2017 at 16:00

    Oh, that beautiful bitter sarcasm in the first paragraph <3

    Glad to hear the movie's score isn't quite so big a disaster.