In this jolly and colourful musical fantasy, a group of misshapen soft toys attempts to escape Uglyville to find the real world.   


Portal to perfection: Kelly Clarkson (in bright puce) has her doubts


The brightest, most upbeat new cartoon of the week, UglyDolls is a brazen marketing opportunity for the soft toys of the same name. Like the Transformers franchise, The LEGO Movie (2014) and My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) before it, the film takes a brand and attempts to pump cinematic life into it. However, the ‘beauty-is-only-skin-deep’ message is a laudable one, even if many of the ideas feel recycled.


Imagine a parallel world in which the toys in your bedroom inhabit a life of their own, behind your back. For the felt-covered, bright puce Moxy, optimism is her middle name and in spite of her missing teeth and gormless appearance, she believes that one day a human child will love her. Each new morning she bounces out of her bed in Uglyville and sings, ‘Today Could Be the Day!’ Her fellow misshapen denizens have accepted their fate as castoffs, but somehow get motivated by Moxy’s positive attitude and agree to find a way out of Uglyville.


Moxy believes that you have to make your own luck and that your dream is for the taking. But the world is stacked against her and when she and the other UglyDolls find themselves in the boot camp Institute for Perfection, they have to search deep for a new kind of beauty, a more profound self-confidence.


Like physicists, children are ready to accept alternate realities, and films like Peter Pan, Monsters, Inc., Wreck-It-Ralph and Inside Out have played on the fact. UglyDolls is hardly in that league, but it is not without wit and visual invention and is a buoyant morality tale. Drawn from a story by the innovative filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, the cartoon has attracted a fine cast of voice artists, with the singer Kelly Clarkson providing a chirpy incarnation of Moxy. The homilies come thick and fast (“Our flaws make us who we are”), and there are enough decent throwaway quips to pacify an older audience.




Voices of  Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monae, Blake Shelton, Wanda Sykes, Gabriel Iglesias, Wang Leehom, Bebe Rexha, Charli XCX, Lizzo, Nick Jonas, Pitbull, Ice-T, Emma Roberts, Jane Lynch, Kelly Asbury, Natalie Martinez, Rob Riggle.


Dir Kelly Asbury, Pro Jane Hartwell, Robert Rodriguez and Oren Aviv, Ex Pro Pitbull, Screenplay Alison Peck, Pro Des Shannon Jeffries, Ed Julie Rogers and Nolan Southerland, Music Christopher Lennertz.


STX Family/Reel FX Animation Studios/Alibaba Pictures/Huaxia Film Distribution/Original Force-STX International.

87 mins. USA/China/Canada. 2019. Rel: 16 August 2019. Cert. U.