Uglydolls is an ugly movie. And, yes, I realize that the moral of the film is supposed to be about not judging things by how they look, but what’s on the inside. But Uglydolls is ugly throughout. At no point in its under 90-minute run time does it do a single thing to justify its existence. It is a derivative, boring, poorly made slog that even the children it is geared towards found uninteresting. I hesitate to call it a movie when it’s actually just some hastily together animations on par with those bottom tier kids shows you’re not quite sure aren’t actually horror shorts the animation is so bad.
It is ugly to its very core. A film proclaiming to champion difference and diversity while conforming to every trope that’s ever graced the big screen all in an attempt to sucker parents out of money. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.
Director: Kelly Asbury
Release Date: May 3, 2019
There are these dolls called Uglydolls. You’ve probably seen them at craft fairs and other hipstery things. Well, those dolls are a brand, not actually something cool and unique, and STX Films along with its Chinese counterparts wants to capitalize on the brand so they got a bunch of singers together, half-assed some pop music, and then hired an animation studio to pay workers in Korea in beans to vomit out some moving images. The result is this pointless piece of childrens’ cinema that has even less of a reason to exist than the Emoji Movie.
There is, believe it or not, a plot. Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) is a weird looking pink doll who lives in Uglyville with her friends Uglydog (Pitbull), Peggy (Ice T), Ox (Blake Shelton), Wage (Wanda Sykes), Babo (Gabriel Iglesias), Uglybat (Leehorn Wang). However, she’s not content with the life she lives. She wants to be part of the real world and be loved by a child. So one day she and her friends escape Uglyville and arrive in Perfection where they meet Lou (Nick Jonas), who trains all the dolls to be perfect and make it into the real world. Obviously, Lou doesn’t like the Uglydolls because they’re ugly and so he tries to stop them from completing doll training.
Look, it’s a dumb plot with aspirations of hitting Toy Story emotions, but only the ability of hitting Gumby levels of insight. Still, it could have been serviceable if its world made any sense at all. Kids aren’t stupid, they’ll pick up on inconsistencies and things that don’t make sense, so it’s strange that Uglydolls seems to think they’ll miss all the contradictions and plotholes the riddle its story like a moth-eaten, velveteen rabbit left outside in the rain for a week. The very basis of the world the toys exist in doesn’t hold up and so the entire movie falls apart, even if you’re only there to see the funny dolls on the big picture screen.
You’ll also note that all the actors in the film, spare a select few, are actually singers. Singers who are really bad at voice acting. I assume that the logic here was that the film has music in it so they should get some folks who can sing but none of them seem to be interested in acting so any moment when music isn’t playing feels painful to listen to. Even more ridiculous is the fact that all the songs suck. Each and every one is lazily written and overproduced. If Alan Menken saw this movie and heard this music he would probably become a hermit in repentance for creating the modern Disney musical and inspiring this film in even the smallest way. I could not repeat back to you a single piece of music from this film every note played is so forgettable.
Sometimes quality animation can cover up a poor performance and even bad songs, but Uglydolls doesn’t have that either. The Uglydolls themselves are animated with some care and attention but the rest of the film looks like the animators forgot to move on from pre-rendering. Textures and backgrounds seem to be optional and any character that isn’t central to the story has about as much attention paid to it as two-week old McDonald’s fun meal toy forgotten under the couch. It feels like they spent all their time animating the furry Uglydolls then went on lunch break and told Steve the intern to finish up the rest and get it over to production.
Director Kelly Asbury has the comic timing of an unconscious Buffalo. He cuts when the beats demand a pause, pauses when there should be cuts, and couldn’t get his animators to hit a punchline animation correctly if it killed him. Every scene in the film, including the almost too-easy-to-nail training montage, is a mess of woeful timing and poor decisions. I suppose he was stitching together a bunch of stilted dialog from untrained voice actors and singers, who were reading from a screenplay written by a computer programmed to destroy humanity, so we should cut him a little slack, but I can’t imagine someone delivering a more stilted film than this. Even in the rare moments where the movie lands a chuckle it seems more out of dumb luck than anything intentional.
Man, that was cathartic. It appears I was a bit angrier at having to sit through this film than I thought I was, but here we are and I feel much better. Given my calmer state of mind I will say this: this movie sucks and no one should see it.