UGLY DOLLS – Review by Susan Granger

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Propelled by powerhouse merchandising, Ugly Dolls is a specialty brand that’s attempting to insinuate itself into American popular culture. There are the colorful, fuzzy-felt toys, of course, but also T-shirts, nightgowns, blankets figurines, Pez dispensers, even McDonald’s Happy Meals.

Blandly scripted by Alison Peck and tediously directed by Kelly Asbury, this animated film relies far too much on the dubious appeal of its pop-star voiced animated characters.

Pink, gap-toothed Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) awakens every morning believing that this will be the day she’s adopted and loved by a human child. Her spunk is contagious as she tries to convince her flawed neighbors that a better future lies just ahead.

What Moxy doesn’t know is that she and her weird friends – Babo (Gabriel Iglesias), Ugly Dog (Pitbull), Wedgehead (Emma Roberts) and Wage (Wanda Sykes) – are factory rejects. Instead of heading to Perfection, they’ve been dumped in Uglyville, where Mayor Ox (Blake Shelton) makes sure everyone lives in peaceful ignorance.

After a dubious tea-leaf reading by Lucky Bat (Leeholm Wang), curious Moxy is determined to venture into the outside world, where the Institute of Perfection’s judgmental guru/crooner Lou (Nick Jonas) forbids stains, smudges and smells, condemning insolent insurgents to the washing machine.

“If you want someone to love you, you’ve got to look like me,” he says. “Kids don’t want ugly.”

Eventually, after a rigorous series of tests called “the gauntlet,” Moxy et al learn that nobody’s really perfect and they should value their own individuality. It’s all very formulaic and predictable, lifting inspiration from “Toy Story,” “The LEGO Movie,” “Smurfs,” “Trolls,” etc.

Created in 2001 by David Horvath and his wife, Sun-Min Kim, the first Ugly Dolls popped up in Erik Nokamura’s Japanese toy store Giant Robot in Los Angeles. Soon after, the Horvaths formed Pretty Ugly LLC to manufacture the toys in South Korea.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ugly Dolls” is a preachy, lethargic 3 – a blatant infomercial for plush Hasbro toys.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.