“UglyDolls” stars Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Wanda Sykes, Gabriel Iglesias, Pitbull, Wang Leehom, and Blake Shelton. Released on May 3, 2019, the film is about a group of UglyDolls who encounter a town where everyone is perfect.
The film is directed by Kelly Asbury, who also directed “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, “Shrek 2”, “Gnomeo & Juliet”, and “Smurfs: The Lost Village”. It is based on the plush toys of the same name created by David Horvath and Sun-min Kim. Everyone around us is different not just on the inside, but on the outside as well. Some of the people have abnormal appearances that were either shunned or mocked by others who proclaimed themselves to be “normal”. However, aside from those traits, they’re just like us. I mean, could you imagine living in a world where everyone is always perfect? I did, and it’s not fun. Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all this. Well, it’s because we have another film that celebrates people’s differences. This time, it’s from the perspectives of the weirdly-designed, but lovable, plush dolls. The surprise success of “The Lego Movie” gave Hollywood the opportunity to make more family-oriented films based on a specific toy line, such as “Trolls” back in 2016, and from the looks of it, it doesn’t look like they’re slowing down anytime soon. With the second main Lego movie out of the picture, it’s time for us to turn our attention to another toy-based film that may or may not be as successful as the Lego movies and “Trolls”. This one was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Not because of its concept, but because of the fact that the UglyDolls brand has been around since 2001, and it took Hollywood more than a decade to make a kids film based on those dolls. Then again, they did wait a while to make a feature-length film based on the Lego figurines, and look how that turned out. My best guess is that they wanted to introduce a new generation of kids to the UglyDolls via a movie, which didn’t sound like a bad idea, but as a film made for modern audiences, it might need to do more than that to impress those outside of its target demographic. With that in mind, let’s see if this animated doll movie can stack up against the other toy-based motion pictures.
The story takes place in a hidden village known as Uglyville (sounds…reasonable), where the deformed dolls known as the UglyDolls reside. Among them is an optimistic doll named Moxy (Clarkson), who dreams about the outside world and getting chosen to be with a child. So, yeah, the film took the “Lego Movie” approach and have it take place in an imaginative universe that resides in the real world because why not? Determined to know if the outside world (known as the “Big World” by the UglyDolls) is real or not, Moxy and her friends decided to travel outside of their village, but instead of winding up in the “Big World”, they wind up in the Institute of Perfection, where the human-like dolls train to be the perfect doll for their perfect child. So if you’re wondering why it’s called the “Institute of Perfection”, here you go. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, including the Institute’s leader Lou (Jonas), Moxy is determined to show the world that you don’t need to be perfect to be special. I did appreciate that the filmmakers stayed true to the UglyDolls' purpose, but other than that, it’s basically a below-average cartoon. A cartoon that had the imagination of “Trolls” and the quality of a Disney animated musical rip-off that was released in the 1990s. Does it make it a bad film? Well, not exactly. It had a cute story and a meaningful message that should resonate with young kids. Plus, the animation was quite colorful and well-rendered. Sadly, they weren’t enough to convince people outside of its target audience to buy the deformed dolls themselves. The cast consisted of mostly artists who provided both speaking and singing voices for the characters, ranging from Clarkson as Moxy to Pitbull as Ugly Dog, one of Moxy’s friends. They were pretty decent in their roles and their singing was top-notch, although their characters didn’t have enough depth to keep themselves away from imperfection. While Moxy offered some likability into her character, the other characters were either mediocre or poorly-written, especially the film’s main antagonist, Lou. To be fair, I thought Nick Jonas was well-cast as Lou. The main problem with him is the character himself. He just comes across as a formulaic bully that lacked a strong reason as to why he was acting like a butthole. Not even their jokes were enough to make me fully love them. Then, there were the songs. Like I mentioned before, the film has the same quality as a Disney animated musical rip-off from the 90s, like “Thumbelina”, and do you know what those types of rip-offs have? Musical numbers that failed to be as memorable as Disney's musical numbers. There were some songs that were quite catchy, but like the film’s plot, they’re simply lackluster.
Overall, “UglyDolls” is definitely well-meaning and colorful, but a family classic, it is not. The cast did a suitable job with their singing and vocal performances and it had a few moments that were quite enjoyable. However, this toy-based cartoon wasn’t able to match the imaginative quality that was set by “The Lego Movie” and “Trolls” in terms of the story, the characters, and the songs. If you’re familiar with the UglyDolls brand and the cast in general, this film is worth watching at home.