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Film Review


Directed by Kelly Asbury
Released: 05.03.19
Review by Philip Jean-Pierre | May 2, 2019 at 6:30 PM

Basically: In a world of perfection, the UglyDolls aim to prove that imperfection is where it’s at.

I am a 40+ something, cynical, jaded, hard-scrabble of a human flesh-bag raised in the cocaine-fueled Reagan era. Shine was what made the world go round and the pretty people made you wish you were dead. Minus the false narrative of beauty and Ronald Reagan, UglyDolls is a similar story of imperfect toys forced to live in a seemingly perfect world. Oh wait, there is also no cocaine in this story, either. Now, where was I: Welcome to ‘Perfection’, a homogenized place crafted with needle, thread, and buttons that only allows “pretty” dolls the opportunity to find their single special kid—a privilege denied the ugly dolls. That’s right, this is a kids movie about…burning it all down. It’s also about love and friendship. And, again, burning it all down.  

Our story begins in Uglyville with Moxy (Kelly Clarkson), who dreams of the ‘Big World’ (the mythical place where their special child lives—kinda like a more pleasant Wonka Chocolate Factory). She dreams so much about the Big World that the movie randomly breaks out in song about it…often. Realizing she can’t wait around for her dreams to come true, she and a motley crew of uglies go out on their own to find the Big World and their special child. This crew includes Lucky Bat (Wang Leehom), Ugly Dog (Pitbull), the cynical baker Wage (Wanda Sykes), and strong but soft-spoken Babo (Gabriel Iglesias). When they arrive in Perfection, they clash with the town’s inhabitants and their “benevolent” yet superficial perfect doll named Lou (Nick Jonas). And in this town the Perfects must go through a series of tests, called the Gauntlet, to be with their perfect child.

Photo © STX Entertainment

I may have gotten too invested in UglyDolls and transferred some of my junior high angst onto it. Such is the fun of the movie. Arguably one-part Toy Story, one-part Monsters, Inc. with a drizzle of rebellion. Did I forget to say we should add one-part Battle Royale? UglyDolls shows us you are not perfect because you are like everyone else; you are perfect because you are yourself. The movie is silly and fun with a message about being yourself. A truly novel concept for kids today.  

Salt aside, I really enjoyed this movie. UglyDolls takes a complex subject of “Am I cool enough?” and shows us that: Yes you are and you always were. Clarkson is adorable as the innocent doe-eyed Moxy who wants nothing more than to belong. Her counterpart Mandy (Janelle Monae)—whose only “imperfection” is her glasses in the unforgiving eyes of the Perfection—shows Moxy that being pretty isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. That people are flawed, goofy, stumbling beauties who just are—even people like Lou whose suave veneer hides something uglier than all of Uglyville.  

In the End: UglyDolls shows us that if the world was perfect it wouldn’t be (and who wants that anyway?).

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