“Ugly Dolls” is a film that has its heart in the right place, but the execution is disastrous. How ironic that a film intended to celebrate our differences is so bland and poorly animated that it, too, becomes a forgettable face in the crowd. It’s projects like this that ensure audiences and critics will continue to be dismissive towards animated films for years to come.
Here is yet another over-commercialized movie based on uninteresting characters that nobody asked for (this would make an excellent companion piece to the god-awful “Emoji Movie,” which is an equally pointless exercise). Based on the odd looking UglyDolls toy line, the pink and spunky, free-spirited Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) and her misfit friends live in — wait for it — Uglyville. In their little corner of the world, the strange and weird are celebrated, and every day is a happy one. After embarking on a journey beyond the borders of their own village, the band of imperfect dolls comes face to face with perfection and struggle with what it means to be different. (Spoiler alert: they learn they don’t have to be perfect because they are already amazing just as they are).
Look, the film takes a positive anti-bullying stance and preaches self confidence. Those aspects are admirable, and they are important lessons for kids to learn. It’s the derivative plot coupled with an off-putting insincerity that does the film few favors. The story puts forth the bare minimum when it comes to encouraging children to “be yourself” in a generic (albeit slick) package of mixed messages. It looks and feels like a daily affirmation self-help video for “Teletubbies” fans, with characters screeching eloquent gems like “let your freak flag fly” and celebrating having gapped teeth and wearing glasses because “it’s okay to be ugly.”
The studio honchos thought it would be a brilliant idea to hire several famous singers to headline the cast, a move I assume came about only because they’d be belting out original pop songs on the soundtrack. The music in this movie is already terrible, but the voice performances are even worse. Everyone is either grossly miscast (Blake Shelton, Wanda Sykes) or overacting (Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe) or both (Pitbull, Clarkson). Everything grated on my last nerve and caused my ears prolonged discomfort for 87 unpleasant minutes.
Do not waste your money on a full-priced ticket in the theater and instead save this one for your next two hour road trip. It’s best suited as a mindless babysitter for fussy kids watching dvds on a tiny screen in the back of the minivan.