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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Ugly Dolls" is pretty awful

May 03, 2019 04:32PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Kelly Clarkson and Pitbull in UglyDolls - © 2019 STX Entertainment.

Ugly Dolls (STX Entertainment)

Rated PG for thematic elements and brief action.

Starring (voices of) Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monáe, Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton, Pitbull, Wanda Sykes, Wang Leehom, Gabriel Iglesias, Emma Roberts, Bebe Rexha, Charli XCX, Lizzo, Ice-T, Laura Nicole Harrison, Jane Lynch, Kelly Asbury, Natalie Martinez, Stephen Zimpel, Enrique Santos, Rob Riggle, Steven Schweickart, Afi Ekulona, Jacques Colimon.

Written by Alison Peck and Robert Rodriguez.

Directed by Kelly Asbury.



The success of an animated feature film rests on a simple formula of appealing to all ages. If the movie is mere Pablum for the kiddies, parents tune out. If the movie is too heavy for kids, parents might enjoy the movie, but probably won’t go to the theater to see it in the first place. It used to be that if you made a cartoon movie, kids would watch regardless, and the studios made a little money. With the advent of the “Pixar Age”, the bar has been raised so high that studios can’t afford to invest a pile of money into a major feature that has no appeal to kids or adults. Unfortunately, Ugly Dolls is that rare animated feature that falls flat on both fronts.

It’s the story of dolls and plush toys that came out of the factory with any number of flaws, be it a missing eye, an extra ear or errant appendages. The reject dolls end up in “Uglyville” where Mayor Ox (Blake Shelton) pacifies the dolls with happiness and song. One of the more chipper dolls is Moxie (Kelly Clarkson), who dreams that she will one day be adopted by a child in the “real world.” Tired of her happy but ignorant existence, moxie travels to the other side of the doll factory to the “Institute of Perfection” where the preppy snob Lou (Nick Jonas) conducts training for “perfect” dolls before they enter the real world. Moxie’s friends Ugly Dog (Pitbull), Wage (Wanda Sykes), Lucky Bat (Wang Leehom), and Babo (Gabriel Iglesias) join her on the trek, quickly discovering how ruthless Lou can be. The Ugly Dolls find an unlikely ally in Mandy (Janelle Monae), a perfect doll with less-than-perfect eyesight. As the Ugly Dolls try to pass Lou’s draconian training program, the truth behind his sinister ways is revealed, and Maxie must decide whether to take a stand and risk lives or settle into a dreary existence as a reject.

It should be noted that Ugly Dolls is, in fact, a “musical” in the technical sense, but I’d challenge anyone to whistle a single tune from the movie – even seconds after leaving the theater. The songs are incredibly forgettable, and not one of them have any potential to be a major hit, even with powerful pop voices like Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas taking the lead vocals.

As for the rest of the film, Ugly Dolls is an exercise in cinematic mediocrity, if not complete failure. The “moral” of the story is so trite, so corny and so blatantly obvious, rendering Ugly Dolls unenjoyable for people of all ages unless you consider that some preschoolers might be mildly amused (or occasionally distracted) by the colorful talking dolls.   

"Ugly Dolls" Trailer