Director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) brings the audience back to the era when every toy was a marketing opportunity, only this time the toys come first. But in the script by writer Alison Peck (Based on the characters created by David Horvath and Sun-min Kim and a story by Robert Rodriguez) we find a surprisingly well-rounded musical for children with a good moral at its center.
Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) is the most exuberant and positive resident in Uglyville, certain that every day is going to be the day that she gets to go and make a child happy. But when advice from her friend Lucky Bat (Leehom Wang) motivates her to seek that destiny on her own, she starts a journey that leads her and her friends to Perfection. There she encounters Lou (Nick Jonas), who will stop at nothing to ensure she fails.
This is a refreshing animated feature catered almost exclusively to younger children. The script is well-written, making it easy for any audience to understand. And instead of being filled with inside jokes that only adults will get, the film goes directly for its target audience. At times, the movie might be a little off-putting for older members in the theater, but at least it isn't as sugary as most films of this genre - teens might roll their eyes, but parents won’t want a stiff drink afterward.
Kelly Clarkson breathes her own personal exuberance for life into Moxy, benefiting the film and setting the bouncy pace from the beginning. Nick Jonas voices the perfect counter to her enthusiasm, providing just enough “bad guy” to fit without any of the scenes being particularly scary. The remainder of the musical cast, which features Ice-T, Lizzo, Janelle Monáe, Pitbull, Bebe Rexha, Blake Shelton, Charli XCX, and the previously mentioned Leehom Wang make it for a wonderful soundtrack. On top of the featured musical cast, Gabriel Iglesias and Wanda Sykes bring their own brands of comedy to the film to keep it moving along nicely in between musical numbers.
The songs are bouncy and entertaining - exactly the type of music to keep kids happy and singing. There is one dropped moment that seemed right for a Pitbull solo, and the absence momentarily interrupts the flow of the film. Otherwise, the overall pace, as well as the spacing of the songs, is good.
From a technical standpoint, the animation is crisp, clear, and easy to follow - but otherwise unspectacular. A shining point is that the character designs never leave a doubt that, despite their animation, they are all dolls regardless of the town. This also adds benefit to the story, especially in the closing moments.
UglyDolls is a fun film that not only entertains, but also let's children know that it is important to accept their true selves and to embrace the differences in others. Therefore, making it a beautiful film with a powerful and compelling statement on self-love and awareness.
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