'UglyDolls' Empowers Outcasts to Be Themselves and Also Buy Adorable Merch Directed by Kelly Asbury
Starring Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, Pitbull, Blake Shelton and Wanda Sykes
Published May 02, 2019Another candy-coloured ode to self-esteem comes shooting down the pipeline with UglyDolls, a mostly harmless feature helmed by seasoned animation director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Gnomeo and Juliet).
Our heroine Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson, whose line-readings remain at From Justin to Kelly level) is a fuzzy pink stuffy who was kicked off the assembly line for not meeting "prototype standards." Moxy lives happily in Uglyville, a funky, Seuss-ian utopia for other rejects — except she can't let go of the fantasy of becoming a beloved toy to a special child.
Her discontentment infects the others and she's quickly off on a quest to "The Big World" with an entourage of cheerful weirdoes, voiced by Pitbull, Blake Shelton and whoever else happened to be hanging around the set of The Voice.
Moxy and the gang accidentally wind up at the Institute of Perfection, a training centre for factory-approved dolls, where they learn good posture, neatness and style — cut to the Uglies eating glue and trying to fit their generous booties into uniform skirts, simultaneously overthrowing and giving into the judgemental norms around them. It'll be perfectly clear to kids what path they should be rooting for, with only occasional overkill speeches about Being Yourself.
The 90-minute runtime is full of goofs, food fights, and peppy songs — the earworm "All Dolled Up" is a standout in its wink at beauty standards, and shines a light on the struggles of Janelle Monáe's character Mandy, a compassionate black doll trying to hide her quirks (and glasses) to fit in with the other "perfect" dolls and the aesthetic ideals of their blonde, blue-eyed overlord Lou (Nick Jonas).
While UglyDolls is not an instant classic, it's a solid afternoon's entertainment with enough jokey asides and absurdities to keep parents and older kids engaged. Sensitive little ones might quake at an intense scene in a trash compactor (similar to the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3), but a madcap chase scene and a happy ending make up for it.