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  • Writer's pictureBen Pivoz


Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Lucky Bat (Leehom Wang), Babo (Gabriel Iglesias), Uglydog (Pitbull), Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) and Wage (Wanda Sykes) leave their home for the first time in Uglydolls (Distributed by STX Entertainment)

Uglydolls is a bright, cheerful, nicely animated, family comedy, with music, some jokes and a very positive message. What it does not have is a good story, engaging characters or a way of delivering its message that does not seem preachy. The screenplay reiterates its point in multiple unsubtle speeches. This feels like a 22 minute tv episode stretched out to 79 minutes (minus the end credits). It has respectable intentions and might amuse real little kids, but their parents and older siblings will be pretty bored.

The movie takes place in the town of Uglyville, whose inhabitants are all uniquely imperfect stuffed animals. The perpetually chipper Moxy believes that every day is the day she will get chosen to go to the Big World and become a child’s doll. She and some friends decide to explore the tunnel by which new dolls get sent to Uglyville and fall into the Institute of Perfection, the place so-called “perfect dolls” are trained to be children’s playthings. Now they must fight against discrimination to prove it is what is inside that actually matters.

The message of Uglydolls is there is no such thing as perfection. Our flaws are what make us who we are. We are all distinctively ourselves and that is the way it should be. Society creates unfair standards for people to live up to, but we should focus on being the best version of ourselves we can be. That is a good thing to teach kids. Unfortunately, that is basically all the movie has. It does not tuck it inside an interesting story because it is essentially just an unoriginal retread of Toy Story. Instead, it pounds viewers with its one theme over and over again. It even does so in song form.

The gang meets the arrogant Lou (Nick Jonas)

The story is slight and takes a long way to go precisely where you would expect. The characters are each allowed a single defining trait and are entirely unmemorable. However, the animation is suitably pleasant. Each of the dolls, especially those in the title group, has the visual texture of a plush toy. You can see the fabric in the way they move. In that way, it is as believable as Toy Story. Though the movie is inconsistent in exactly how they function (How can they eat? Why do they need sleep?), whether she is walking around Uglyville or imagining herself with a little girl, Moxy does always have the form of an adorably huggable doll. At least it got that idea right.

Uglydolls does not want to break the mold. It is just trying to be a cute, funny, kids movie that entertains and teaches something helpful along the way. It is harmless, but it is also unsuccessful. The voice cast, mainly consisting of singers and a few comedians, is appropriately affable to go with the generally agreeable nature of the whole thing. Uglydolls is based on a toy line created to show children that being different is not a negative. That spirit is ever present in this feature. Sadly, they did not find a way to make this idea transcend its origins and become worthwhile as entertainment.

2 out of 5

Voice Cast:

Kelly Clarkson as Moxy

Wanda Sykes as Wage

Pitbull as Uglydog

Leehom Wang as Lucky Bat

Gabriel Iglesias as Babo

Blake Shelton as Ox

Janelle Monáe as Mandy

Nick Jonas as Lou

Directed by Kelly Asbury

Screenplay by Alison Peck


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