One of the fondest memories I have of fatherhood is baby’s first comic con. When my kid turned five-years-old, I knew it was time to take her to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time. First, thank you to Marvel Comics for giving her a Captain America action figure. But alas, she was not impressed. That is until we passed the UglyDolls booth. Her eyes lit up, and I knew I had to get her one of these ugly dolls. One, because I’m OK with spoiling my child with nerdy stuff and two, to piss off her mother (who would eventually give the doll away to charity to reduce the clutter of toys).
Long intro, just to say, I wonder how this franchise of toys ever got a movie. Look UglyDolls has the best of intentions and a cast right out of The Voice, but why? The story is pretty simple. It starts at the great toy factory in the sky, and as it happens on the production line of perfect dolls, imperfection occurs, and an ugly doll is created. That doll is removed and banished to a quaint town called Uglyville.
“…an ugly doll is created. That doll is removed and banished to a quaint town called Uglyville.”
Our story focuses on an ugly pink doll named Moxy (Kelly Clarkson), who wakes up and sings about one day being the cuddly doll of a little girl. But this world where human children love you is somewhat of a fairy tale and myth in Uglyville. Convince the real world is real, Moxy convinces her friends UglyDog (Pitbull), Lucky Bat (Leehom Wang), Wage (Wanda Sykes), and Babo (Gabriel Iglesias) to find out where they came from.
Their journey leads them to a town called Perfection where all the perfect dolls are trained to be the best toys before going to the real world. The town is led by Lou (Nick Jonas), and as he is perfect, he sabotages Moxy and the gang’s chances of being loved by a child. Lou doesn’t outright dismiss the crew. He strings them along and takes every opportunity to humiliate them in front of the others, but Moxy gets help from a perfect doll named Mandy (Janelle Monae), who’s not so perfect because she secretly wears glasses. But Lou is the least of Moxy’s problems, because there is a secret that threatens the very town of Uglyville itself.
Of course, there’s really one reason I’m writing this review at all. My kid made me see it, and she liked it. The UglyDolls are cute, they act funny, and the songs are fun. As you’d suspect, the message in UglyDoll is about accepting yourself faults and all. This is a kid’s movie and succeeds in entertaining the young ones.
But what about us big folks? Disney and Pixar have set an incredibly high standard in children’s animated features. UglyDolls falls far short. The animation is good, but not sophisticated at all. While Pixar goes overboard creating highly-detailed settings and backdrops, UglyDolls creates just enough detail to move on. The cast is a who’s who in music and my kid certainly knew a good number of these artists including Bebe Rexha, Charli XCX, and surprisingly enough Blake Shelton.
“The story was basic and fine with a well-worn moral of acceptance, diversity, and empowerment…”
The story was basic and fine with a well-worn moral of acceptance, diversity, and empowerment. The songs were fine as well, but nothing you’ll remember when you walk out, except for Pentatonix’ cover of Hall and Oats’ You Make My Dreams Come True. But kudos to UglyDolls’ creators David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. They created a simple idea for a line of toys, and the money will keep rolling in with a new film franchise based on these ugly dolls. We should be so lucky.
Final analysis, UglyDolls is good for the kids and a great way to occupy their attention for almost 90 minutes. For the adults, it’s just another uninspired children’s film to hold us over until the next one comes along.
UglyDolls (2019) Directed by Kelly Asbury. Written by Alison Peck. Starring Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monae, Blake Shelton, Pitbull, Ice-T, Leehom Wang, Wanda Sykes, Gabriel Iglesias.
6 out of 10 stars