Directed by: Kelly Asbury
Premise: An animated film based on the toy line. Plush toys too defective to be placed on the market live a content life in an isolated community. Moxy (voice of Kelly Clarkson) yearns to belong to a child that will love her. She and a group of friends journey to the outside world.
What Works: There is a difference between family movies and children’s films. The former are tales suitable for the whole family and appeal to both kids and their parents. Children’s films are just that; they are intended to entertain very young viewers. UglyDolls is a children’s movie. It is the feature film equivalent of the cartoons found on the Nickelodeon cable network and the movie will probably hold the attention of its intended audience. There’s nothing in the film that parents ought to find objectionable and its themes and messages are bland and inoffensive.
What Doesn’t: That UglyDolls only plays for the under twelve set is not itself a problem. But even movies for children can have more substance and originality than this. Literature and cinema are full of stories for kids that include interesting characters, engaging stories, and substantive ideas. UglyDolls has none of this. Moxy takes several friends on her journey into the world beyond her home but none of these friends has any personality or defining features. Moxy fulfills the most basic requirements of a character; she has a personality and a desire that she pursues but Moxy’s journey doesn’t change or enlighten her or the audience in any way. She wants to be loved by a child and the film injects some corny and halfhearted ideas about the importance of believing in yourself. It’s all pat and uninspired and the film’s attempts to earn sympathy come across forced and tacked on. The premise and plot of UglyDolls borrows heavily from Toy Story and The Lego Movie but UglyDolls has nothing on either of those films. It certainly doesn’t have their energy or style or their memorable characters nor does UglyDolls possess the charm and nuance that distinguished those films. UglyDolls is a tie-in project for a toy line and it is an industrial product that is just as manufactured as the dolls it is intend to promote. Everything about it is calculated from the uninspired plot and humdrum characters to the animation style and the cast of celebrity voices who contribute bland pop songs. In a theatrical marketplace that includes the animated films of Pixar, Illumination, and Laika Entertainment, this dreck just isn’t competitive.
Bottom Line: UglyDolls is a competently made film but it is also unremarkable in virtually every way. The movie is an industrial product and the filmmakers interest in telling a compelling story with interesting characters is second to promoting their brand. Children may be undemanding viewers but they deserve better than this.
Episode: #749 (May 12, 2019)