Movie Review: The UglyDolls have a little beauty

Movie Review: The UglyDolls have a little beauty
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Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism and Performing Arts from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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UglyDolls, as an animated family film, is such a pleasant surprise. It’s easy to make a tepid movie with bright, colourful weirdos and have them belt annoying pop music every ten minutes. While UglyDolls is predictable, it’s also shamelessly sweet and optimistic. And that honesty is hard to dislike.

Expectations were low for an animated movie from an emerging studio about a line of questionably well-known plush toys. And frankly, there’s nothing revolutionary going on here. The story’s simplicity and clean execution offers no surprises.

What is offered instead is a well-delivered hour and a half of raw entertainment. Veteran animation director Kelly Asbury (of long ago Shrek 2 fame) has taken a basic idea and presented it with gusto. UglyDolls can’t be faulted for a lack of energy and warmth.

The premise is nothing special: in a parallel world from a toy factory, perfect dolls are sent to the land of Perfection. Ugly ones are sent to the adorably fun Uglyville. When a pink, ugly doll named Moxie (Kelly Clarkson) dreams of being paired with a child, she and her friends attempt to pass training in Perfection to fulfil her dreams.


Photo: STX Entertainment

One of Asbury’s smartest calls was casting well-known singers as the film’s voice cast. The story is as simple as it gets, but this cast can really sing Glenn Slater’s (Tangled) catchy pop tunes. The lyrics are especially clever.

But the word “ugly” has some nasty connotations. In reality, the ugly dolls are simply cute and playful. “Imperfect” would be a more appropriate adjective for Moxie and her friends, but I’ll reluctantly agree it doesn’t sound as punchy.

Where UglyDolls goes really right is the unobstructed message of the beauty in being original and individual. Moxie and the dolls discover imperfections are what make us special – and there’s no catch or juvenile discrediting of that message. Ugly could have easily meant truly ugly, or gross, or unlikable. Instead, it’s beautiful.

The movie itself is instantly forgettable and is as shallow as it gets for anyone over the age of 10. It also, shockingly, is really entertaining and sweetly funny. Structurally, it follows the same style of animated glitz singing pop music like 2016’s Trolls, but at least this one is original.

It’s a quaint, simple film that’s a universally watchable introduction for young kids to thrill of going to the movies. Just don’t expect anything more.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

G, 1hr 27mins. Animated Family Musical.
Directed by Kelly Asbury.
Starring Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monae, Nick Jonas and Blake Shelton.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.


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