UglyDolls movie review: Unremarkable animation, inconsistencies render this musical nearly unwatchable
Strictly as a children’s film, UglyDolls doesn’t really have the energy and the charm to keep the kids entertained.
castNick Jonas, Janelle Monae, Blake Shelton, Charli Xcx, Lizzo, Pitbull, Bebe Rexha
We’ve seen toys, cars, birds and animals being animated into cutesy, all time-classic characters, so now someone thought of a plan of making rejected stuffed dolls into cutesy, lovable protagonists. It’s a brave idea for sure, but one that doesn’t quite sustain interest levels in the only marginally watchable UglyDolls.
We’re introduced to Uglyville, where all the ‘bad’ and discarded dolls dwell. One of the dolls named Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) sings about how wonderful the place is but also how important it is for her to be loved by humans and no longer be rejected. She decides ultimately to cross over to the world of humans and inadvertently walks into a world called Perfection which pretty much lives up to its name. What follows is a series of excuses to break out into songs, because almost all of its cast members are well known pop stars including Nick Jonas, Janelle Monae, Blake Shelton, Charli XCX, Lizzo, Pitbull, and Bebe Rexha.
This isn’t a bad film, per se, but more of an inconsequential and an inconsistent one. It’s definitely not for adults because none of the themes that it explores are deep or incisive in any way, but strictly as a children’s film it doesn’t really have the energy and the charm to keep the kids entertained. It also doesn’t have animation good enough to stand out in the crowded genre, even though it’s directed by Kelly Asbury who made Shrek 2, so kids looking for a rollicking 3D time would be left disappointed. It’s not just unremarkable animation, but oddly thought through animation because the characters in the film are supposed to look both ugly and cute, and the execution doesn’t quite let the filmmakers have their cake and eat it too. Contrast this to Shrek where the protagonist is very obviously an unattractive guy, but he’s also likeable, though never really cute, and the film embraces and addresses this aspect.
The film is also not sure about what it wants to convey – on one hand the songs delve into how being rejected is not a bad thing and one must celebrate being different from the rest of the world, but within the same songs the lyrics suddenly dive into how one must strive hard to be accepted in the world because it’s so hard to fit in. Some of the recent Disney animation films also make the same contradictory mistake in their songs, but the plot in those films resolves itself into meaningful ways, here the plot simply produces the paradox and moves along as if nothing of importance was actually said. The lack of focus is quite problematic in particular to kids watching the film and consuming the inconsistent values the story imparts. This is definitely an experiment that didn’t work, maybe a far more focused group (and not a focus group that decides creative content) would be able to pull off what this film tried to do. If you really want to watch this, I’d suggest you wait for the streaming release.
As the writing becomes increasingly hollow, the director increasingly relies on loud music and grand frames of Mammootty to get by.
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