Tag Archives: T.J. Miller

Talk to the Hand

The Emoji Movie

by George Wolf

I don’t pretend to understand the emoji game, but I do know that getting Patrick Stewart to voice the poop seems like a classy way to go.

But the star of The Emoji Movie is Gene (T.J. Miller), a young “meh” emoji ready for his first day on the job in teenager Alex’s smartphone.

Gene wants to emote more feelings than just “meh,” so things don’t go well, and he’s quickly labeled as a malfunction and targeted for deletion. With the help of a “high five” fixated on his glory days (James Corden), Gene runs for his life in search of the legendary hacker “Jailbreak” (Anna Faris) who might be able to get them all to freedom in a valhalla known as the cloud.

Director/co-writer Tony Leondis (Lilo & Stitch 2, Igor) pinches the secret world from Toy Story with the run through technology of Inside Out to present an adventure just clever enough to remind you how much potential was disregarded. The idea is timely and probably inevitable, but never developed much beyond pleasant time-waster status.

It’s rarely more than amusing, the visuals can’t rise above average, and the “be true to yourself” mantra is entirely generic.

There is a big dance number, though, which inexplicably doesn’t involve Stewart.



Not So Secret Santa

Office Christmas Party

by George Wolf

They say bad things happen when the copier goes down.

When it’s fully operational at the Office Christmas Party …well, those aren’t TPS reports.

Clay (T.J. Miller) is the Chicago branch manager at a big tech company who wants to throw a Christmas party like his Dad did back in the days when employees “got drunk before noon.” Trouble is, since Dad died Clay’s sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) is CEO and she wants to fill Clay’s stocking with budget cuts.

In fact, Carol might close the entire Chicago operation down unless Clay, Chief Tech Officer Josh (Jason Bateman) and IT wiz Tracey (Olivia Munn) can find a way to land the multi-million dollar account of Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). Their standard pitch to Davis is less than persuasive, so what’s left to do but impress him with office camaraderie at an epic holiday bash?

Despite warnings from an HR head (Kate McKinnon) who wants a non-denominational mixer and hangs up “think of your family” signs, the staff naughty list starts getting crowded.

The premise (from the guys behind The Hangover) seems a perfect fit for this talent-laden ensemble. It might fit too well, as even the steady amount of laughs the film lands feels a tad disappointing.

I mean, if you need a wisecracking nice guy, a mean-spirited boss with sarcastic bite, and a Tommy Boy for today, Bateman, Aniston and Miller should be on speed dial.

Plus there’s a break room full of winning side characters. From Karan Soni’s guy-with-an-imaginary-girlfriend to Rob Corddry’s embittered lifer to Jillian Bell’s curiously polite pimp and beyond, entertaining impressions are mined from limited screen time by people clearly trained to do just that. And McKinnon? There may not be a better scene-stealer around, and you’re afraid to look away for fear of missing even the subtlest of gags.

Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory, The Switch) and their team of writers manage some passing nods to cutthroat corporate culture and political correctness, but thankfully don’t try to overthink things. Just let these ponies run. And though I’m guessing there was plenty of inspired improvisation (stay for the in-credits gag reel), even their best peaks can’t hide some valleys in the script.

But hey, it’s the holidays, be of good cheer and ride out them out for the payoffs. Office Christmas Party supplies them, even if, like that end of the year bonus, you were hoping for a little more.