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For the last several months, progressive reforms enacted in Saudi Arabia have seen a slew of changes hit the country. Stand-up comedy is legal, women can drive, and — after 35 years — people are now allowed to visit movie theaters without fear of reprisal. It’s a beautiful development that should have allowed Saudi Arabia to tap into the broader culture of the world … unfortunately, the whole plan is going to be totally botched because the first movie shown was The Emoji Movie.

For anyone who missed The Emoji Movie during its initial theatrical release (which is likely most of you), the film follows an emoji who embarks on a quest across a smartphone to become like everybody else. If that description sounds ultra trite, then you are no different from the critics who completely ravaged the movie. Presently, The Emoji Movie holds a 9 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

If you were a government hoping to get its people to cast off Western culture even while appearing to embrace it, then allowing an insipid movie about the worst part of American culture might do the trick. Either that or the people running the government of Saudi Arabia need to be introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe quick and in a hurry.

In all seriousness, the reforms currently transforming Saudi Arabia are lovely. These new laws are helping Saudi Arabia get closer to the larger world surrounding it. Though The Emoji Movie is far from America’s best export, the bright side is that the burgeoning Saudi theater scene has nowhere to go but up.


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