UglyDolls (U)



Musical (2019)
87mins Chi/Can/US

Starring: Ice-T, Pitbull, Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monae, Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas
Director: Kelly Asbury
Writer(s): Alison Peck
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Misshapen and malformed dolls from a toy factory production line are diverted down a chute to the cardboard box ghetto of Uglyville. Pink plush Moxy wakes each morning, hopeful that today she will ascend to the Big World and be paired with a child. When her faith wavers, she abandons Uglyville with Lucky Bat, Babo, Wage and Ugly Dog to forge her own destiny. Her quest leads to the pearly gates of the Institute of Perfection, where dolls compete for the approval of Aryan major-domo Lou.

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LondonNet Film Review
UglyDolls (U)

The most beautiful sight in the world is the inquisitive face staring back at you in the bathroom mirror. That's the key learning of UglyDolls, a well-intentioned journey of self-acceptance and discovery based on the popular line of toys created by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. Kelly Asbury, who sang from a similar song sheet as director of Shrek 2, delivers this sharp riposte to airbrushed and filtered 'perfection' through computer animation and a soundtrack of anodyne pop ditties penned by Christopher Lennert and Glenn Slater...

UglyDolls. Copyright: STX International. Caption: Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) in UglyDolls, directed by Kelly Ashbury. All Rights Reserved.The composer and lyricist adopt a sledgehammer approach to affirmative melodies, which vaunt individuality, courage and occasional failure over bland mass-produced uniformity. "It's a square peg life in a round hole town but the folks couldn't be any sweeter/It may be upside backwards and wrong side down but it just couldn't feel more completer!" excitedly trills Kelly Clarkson's heroine in her opening musical showstopper, Couldn't Be Better. Asbury's picture, scripted by Alison Peck, could be better if it deviated from well-thumbed convention and attempted narrative sophistication beyond an empowering central message. Visuals are crisp and functional to match the assured vocal performances from the likes of Janelle Monae, Wanda Sykes and rapper Pitbull.

Misshapen and malformed dolls from a toy factory production line are diverted down a chute to the cardboard box ghetto of Uglyville where mayor Ox (voiced by Blake Shelton) welcomes each magnificent misfit. Pink plush Moxy (Clarkson) wakes each morning with a sense of unabashed optimism, hopeful that today she will ascend to the Big World and be paired with a child. When her faith wavers, Moxy visits resident soothsayer Lucky Bat (Wang Leehom) and misinterprets his tea leaf reading as a sign to abandon Uglyville and forge her own destiny. Lucky Bat, Babo (Gabriel Iglesias), Wage (Sykes) and Ugly Dog (Pitbull) join Moxy on her quest, which leads to the pearly gates of the Institute of Perfection. Here, dolls compete for the approval of Aryan major-domo Lou (Nick Jonas), who preaches from the book of "pretty makes perfect", flanked by a quartet of impeccably coiffed Spy Girls: Kitty (Charli XCX), Lydia (Lizzo), Tuesday (Bebe Rexha) and Megan (Monae). Lou sneeringly dismisses Moxy and her motley crew - "Ugly things belong in recycling" - but the new arrivals have dauntless belief in teamwork and they defiantly let their "freak flags fly".

UglyDolls defies its own key tenet and joins a herd of glossy coming-of-age fables, which warn bright young minds against judging themselves by appearances. Unblemished conformity should never be put on a pedestal above compassion and kindness so it's extremely disappointing that Asbury's picture doesn't wear its heart on a digitally-rendered sleeve. Songs including Clarkson and Monae's powerhouse duet Unbreakable are sweetly hummable in the moment but soon forgotten.

- Jo Planter

UglyDolls. Copyright: STX International. Caption: Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) in UglyDolls, directed by Kelly Ashbury. All Rights Reserved.


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