Cast: Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monae, Nick Jonas, Blake Shleton
Director: Kelly Asbury
I honestly feel that for UglyDolls, I could probably just copy and paste my review from Wonder Park a few months ago. What kids would want to see this movie when Disney has legitimately one of the most impressive release lineups I’ve ever seen? Sure the film is colorful and there are songs that will help attract people to the movie, but what will the movie do when these kids actually sit down? This is the type of movie that feels incredibly shallow, not necessarily in its message, but in its delivery and art style. Well-meaning but ultimately self-serving, UglyDolls is a movie more focused on selling merchandise than it is promoting its wholesome message.
The film follows a group of dolls that have been rejected due to defects and live in a community called Uglyville. The protagonist Moxy (Clarkson) has a desire to enter the real world and one day be loved by her own child. When her curiosity can no longer be contained, Moxy and her friends travel to the Institute of Perfection where dolls are prepared for their lives with children. Moxy and her friends’ flaws make this training much harder than usual and really puts Moxy’s dreams into question. Starting with the animation, this movie can’t even begin to compete with the films that will draw similar viewers as UglyDolls. This would be like showing up to a basketball court with a baseball bat saying, “OK, I’m ready to play.” UglyDolls wasn’t ready to play with the big studios and it shows, because it shows with the finished product. When you have a movie that has animated shaky cam, you know you’ll be in for a rough time and that’s exactly what we have here. While the color palate is nice to look at for periods of time, the characters look very blocky as if the studio didn’t put on the final touches before releasing the movie. Outside of the animation, we’ve seen this story in countless other children’s movies and most of them can do it better than UglyDolls. It’s a very simple, “be happy with yourself and your flaws make you who you are,” which is fine but clichéd if nothing new is added to it. When you attach this message to a bunch of songs that are generic and corporately-produced, it undercuts the message of being who you are. Considering that many of these songs include Pitbull, routinely one of the most annoying artists in the music industry, anyone over the age of 8 will get tired of this movie even if it only has a quick 92 minute runtime. I didn’t know that this movie was based on a pre-existing series of toys and that there’s a series coming out on Hulu sometime in the future, but after finding that out, it makes complete sense. The best animated movies come when the people behind the project are inspired to make something excellent. UglyDolls is yet another example of a corporate attempt to manipulate younger viewers, but fortunately it looks like the viewers wised up and this movie is bombing.
Overall, I don’t root for movies to fail because there are a lot of smart, talented people who work on these movies that don’t make millions from the profits. However, knowing how this movie got made and the motivation behind it, I don’t feel that bad about the financial and critical failure that is UglyDolls. Not the worst movie of the year, but definitely one you can skip unless you have young children. When a studio comes out with an original, interesting idea and animates it in a way that relates to audiences, it will get all the praise it deserves, but that isn’t the case here with UglyDolls.
Overall Score: 3.5/10