DIRECTOR: KELLY ASBURY | SCREENPLAY: ALISON PECK | STARRING: KELLY CLARKSON, JANELLE MONAE, BLAKE SHELTON, WANDA SYKES, GABRIEL IGLESIAS, EMMA ROBERTS, WANG LEEHOM, BEBE REXHA, CHARLI XCX, LIZZO, NICK JONAS, PITBULL | RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 16TH
The UglyDolls are a popular toy range of misshapen and wacky-looking plush toys, aimed at young children. Apparently they’re meant to teach the young that appearances aren’t that important. However, given that these funny looking characters are soft and adorable, we can see why they’re so popular.
UglyDolls can be found on t-shirts, lunch boxes, stationary and so on, so obviously they now have their own animated movie. A musical, no less. The feature follows the story of Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson)a bright pink rag-doll like thing with an overbite. She is a reject doll living in UglyVille, a place where all the imperfect toys end up. Moxy believes some day she’ll have the love of a child. Her quest for acceptance leads her (and her friends) to the place where the prettier dolls live. They meet the seemingly perfect Mandy (Monáe) who learns to embrace their inner beauty. Of course, the vile Lou (Jonas) does everything he can to stop our heroes from achieving their goals. Because otherwise we don’t have any conflict to keep this by-the-numbers story going.
Eventually, the adorable plushies take on the appearance-obsessed perfect dolls and let their freak flags fly, learning the true value of self-worth. The message is simple enough, and the whole thing is pretty harmless. It does put a lot of focus on appearances while telling the viewer that none of that matters. It’s pleasant enough that most adults will stay awake throughout - at least the first time they see it, anyway. There is not a single plot device you won’t see coming, nor is there a single joke that you can’t predict from the set-up. The songs are catchy enough to keep a child entertained, and the narrative is bouncy and brightly coloured enough to keep the whole thing together for 90 minutes. There is nothing here for an adult audience, except for a few nods to the parents who will also have to sit through this.
Does UglyDolls do anything that hasn’t been seen before? Well, no. It’s certainly not Toy Story, though draws from the same well. We doubt anyone under the age of 10 has seen The Raggy Dolls or know where The Island of Misfit Toys is, so to young minds it’ll appear amazing and fresh. UglyDolls’ worst feature is that it’s rather bland. For a movie about embracing one’s differences, it does seem to be pretty much identical to the many other ‘summer holiday kids movies’ out there.