You’re probably asking yourself, “Do we really need another animated movie about talking toys?” In this case, the answer is Yes. “UglyDolls” doesn’t have the impact of “Toy Story”, the wow factor of the first “LEGO Movie” or the razzle-dazzle of “Trolls”. But veteran animation director Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”, “Gnomeo & Juliet”, “Smurfs: The Lost Village”) has created the perfect gateway to animation for young moviegoers.
“UglyDolls” is a great first in-theater movie for the 4-6 year old crowd. There are plenty of upbeat songs, brightly colored characters and a story that’s easy to follow. But Asbury, who was brought onto the project a little over a year ago, is also able to keep adults entertained throughout the breezy 87 minutes.
Superstars Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Pitbull headline the voice cast of “UglyDolls”, which, in case you’re not familiar with the brand, is based on characters that have been around since 2001. Clarkson’s Moxie is one of the many unique-looking stuffed creatures relegated to living in Uglyville. They don’t realize it, but they’re rejects, mistakes, imperfect. Moxie is full of optimism. She believes that everyday is the day she’ll leave Uglyville and become the cherished property of an adoring human child. That determination leads her and her fellow misfits on a quest. They’ll soon learn that nobody is perfect — and not only is that OK, but it’s great!
“UglyDolls” is driven by music. A nice set-up song opens the film, and original pop tunes, by Christopher Lennertz and Glenn Slater, guide us throughout. The story gets unnecessarily complicated in the final act, with a mild twist that will confuse the little ones. The showcase song (and scene) features Moxie and female human doll Mandy. Both Clarkson and Janelle Monae shine on the duet “Unbreakable”. It’s unforgettable.
Nick Jonas voices a self-centered male human doll who’s the leader of the perfect doll world. He’s the most typical and bland character in the ensemble. Voice acting pros Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch and Rob Riggle round-out the star-studded cast.
The script includes some subtle attempts at humor. But where “UglyDolls” truly excels is with its messages of inclusion, hope, acceptance and, above all, that there is no such thing as perfection. As Pitbull recently preached during an appearance on “Live with Kelly and Ryan”, Ugly actually stands for “U Gotta Love Yourself”. Clarkson’s “Broken and Beautiful” is the perfect end-credits song.
The sweet, sincere and meaningful tone of “UglyDolls” will have you grinning the entire time. This 2019 trip to the Island of Misfit Toys shines with a warm glow that would make Rudolph proud.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “UglyDolls” gets a B.
Running Time: 87 min.