Movie Information

A 91-minute stuffed animal commercial that's outdone by the Toy Story 4 trailer that precedes it.
Genre: Animated/Musical
Director: Kelly Asbury
Starring: The voices of Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe
Rated: PG

Whenever my daughter and I go out to the movies, she always gives a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” to the trailers we see. For months, Kelly Asbury’s UglyDolls has been getting a big “thumbs down.” That is until she started seeing commercials for the accompanying toy line on TV. Suddenly, the movie had her interest, and she couldn’t wait to go.

She may not have seen through the toy pusher’s blatant cash grab (she’s only 4), but I certainly did. If there’s one thing UglyDolls succeeds at, it’s being exactly what I expected it to be: a 91-minute stuffed animal commercial.

The ugly dolls of Uglyville live a happy, nearly utopian life. When Moxy, the pluckiest of them all (voiced by Kelly Clarkson), decides to see what lies beyond their society of reject toys, the adventure begins. She (and a band of fellow misfits) discover the Insitute of Perfection — a training ground for “perfect” dolls. Trouble ensues, songs are sung, and everything wraps up in a nice, emotionally manipulative package that, at best, will end with plush toys under Christmas trees come December. As long as something better doesn’t come along in the meantime, anyway.

Aside from the obvious and distasteful marketing ploy, UglyDolls also isn’t very fun. (When a 4-year-old doesn’t laugh, you’re in trouble — regardless of whether their thumb is up or down.) It fancies itself in the same category as Toy Story or Monsters, Inc., but, of course, it isn’t.

Those films at least have an emotional center and some character depth. UglyDolls has tedium and predictable monotony. There was room in the story for some interesting thematic elements, but the scattered script and erratic pacing derails any possibility of this at every turn. Add to the that the completely forgettable songs, and UglyDolls quickly becomes a waste of time.

About James Rosario
James is a writer, record collector, wrestling nerd, and tabletop gamer living with his family in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and contributes to The Daily Orca, Razorcake Magazine, and Mountain Xpress.

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