UglyDolls

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
UglyDolls Movie Poster Image
Sweet visuals and songs are complicated by mixed messages.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 25 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 13 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Messages somewhat mixed. Intended messages are that conventional beauty doesn't equal goodness, that an unconventional appearance doesn't equal worthlessness, that our differences are actually what make us unique and special. But often key characters say the exact opposite, so positive messages end up weakened. Still, movie joyfully proclaims "Let our freak flags fly!" and says that love and compassion are a doll's true purpose. Group of friends shows teamwork, perseverance in pursuing and fulfilling a goal.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Moxy is a lovable character who, after learning experiences, comes to fully accept herself -- and to launch toward her dream (which she ultimately achieves). Mandy, a complex character, starts out as something of a villain but soon reveals herself as sympathetic to main characters' aims; she makes an important emotional shift. A group of friends is supportive of each other. A few female "perfect dolls" are stereotyped as "mean girls," do most of the dirty work; they talk about hairstyles, lip gloss instead of anything deeper. Bad guy Lou is hyperfocused on perfection, has no tolerance for anyone who doesn't meet his rigorous standards.

Violence & Scariness

A notch more intense than parents might expect: multiple scenes in which characters fall or are thrown from great heights and fall down dark, scary holes. UglyDolls are frequently threatened with being "recycled"; in one harrowing scene, they're thrown into recycling chute, almost shredded by sharp metal teeth of loud, red, glowing monster machine. Dolls battle in hand-to-hand combat. Dolls go up against potentially scary robot dog (which grabs one, carries him away, possibly to his doom), a big vacuum (which sucks one doll up), and a looming robot baby. Many characters are kidnapped and transported in big sacks through threatening tunnel. 

Sexy Stuff

Ugly Dog is interested in female dolls and says things like "Feel the energy between us?" At one point, he whips out a table and some sparkling wine and invites a female doll to join him. 

Language

Infrequent use of words including "butt," "oh ehm gosh," "oh my doll," "imbecile," "sycophant," and hurtful phrases like "you shouldn't even exist" and "get lost."

Consumerism

No product placement within movie, but movie is based on a toy line, and there are tons of offline merchandising tie-ins.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

At one point, a male character whips out a bottle of sparkling wine as a romantic gesture to a female character. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that UglyDolls is about a group of plushy toys who learn they're worthy of love despite their unconventional looks. While that core message is undeniably positive, other messages weaken its impact, including catchy songs that tell listeners they're unworthy if they're "ugly" and that it's important to follow conventional beauty standards if you want others to like you. Adults are likely to understand that these lyrics aren't intended to be taken at face value, but that's much less certain for kids. Happily, other songs have more positive messages -- including "your differences make you special." And characters demonstrate perseverance and teamwork in pursuing their goals. There's a bit more scary stuff and violence than parents might expect, including hand-to-hand combat (no blood or injuries); several scenes in which characters fall or are pushed from great heights or down dark, scary holes; and a very frightening bit in which dolls are threatened with being "recycled" and are almost shredded by a big, loud, monster-like machine with sharp metal teeth. There's no sex or romance, but a male character offers his crush a bottle of sparkling wine and asks whether she can feel the "energy" between them. A few characters are stereotyped as "mean girls"; they do the bad guy's dirty work and talk in a clichéd way about boys, hairstyles, and makeup. Other characters are more sympathetic, including a doll who's dreaming of having a child to love her and a girl who's been trying to appear perfect and learns that she's lovable even if she's not. Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas co-star.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChty May 4, 2019

Celebrates hatred and judgement

This movie is toxic. 95% of the movie celebrates hatred, reinforces judgement, and teaches isolation of those anything less than perfect.
My 5yo, who wears gla... Continue reading
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byCharity F. May 18, 2019

Shows the evil of bullying. Celebrates uniqueness!!

Did we even see the SAME MOVIE?!? UglyDolls is about the ridiculousness of bullying. It's about embracing being different and learning to do your own thin... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byDr.Froost January 7, 2020

I cried and not in a good way

I'm fifteen almost 16 years old. I'm am not an emotional person when it comes to films. However this movie had me bawling and not in a good way. All t... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 6, 2019

One of the worst kids movies I’ve watched

This movie was like I said one of the worst kids movies I’ve watched. Lou a “perfect” character was a horrible role model. Lou pushed others down to keep his re... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a quirky little town called Uglyville, Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) lives among the UGLYDOLLS and hopes every day that today will be the day when she finds a child to love her. But she's gotten impatient for the outside world to find her -- and now she's decided to go in search of the world. She brings a cadre of loyal friends with her: lovable big lug Babo (Gabriel Iglesias), slick Ugly Dog (Pitbull), shy Lucky Bat (Leehom Wang), and cranky Wage (Wanda Sykes). What they find is the Institute of Perfection, which is under the total control of gorgeous uber-doll Lou (Nick Jonas) and is where dolls go to grow "from pretty to perfect." Is it really necessary to be perfect to be loved? Or will the UglyDolls learn to embrace their imperfections?

Is it any good?

The visuals are bright and appealing, the songs are catchy, and the toy-looking-for-love setup is sweet enough to appeal to kids and adults alike. But there are more mixed messages about looks and self-worth in UglyDolls than many parents will be comfortable with. True, the movie's overarching themes are "love yourself" and "your differences make you special," but we get to these ideas relatively late in the movie, after we've watched the main characters get shamed at length for being themselves. Adding weight to the iffy messages are two prominently featured (and quite catchy) songs, "The Ugly Truth" and "All Dolled Up." The first one, sung by the movie's villain, is a little easier to dismiss, though its message -- "ugly = worthless" -- is pretty harsh, and there's a moment when Lou moves down a line of dolls explaining why each is unacceptably imperfect ("You're way too short! You're too thin! Is that a blemish on your double chin?") that's cringeworthy.

"All Dolled Up," sung by the sympathetic Mandy (Janelle Monáe), is more problematic. To adults, it's obvious that Mandy's heart isn't in statements like "When you're all dolled up, people only see what you want them to see." But to kids, the message the song sends is more uncomfortable -- as if the "solution" to being different is to pretend not to be. It's not until the movie gets to the song "Unbreakable" that parents will sit up and really enjoy the vibe being pumped out: Be yourself, and show them you can't be broken. Once UglyDolls turns that corner, it's all sweetness and smiles: Perfection and Uglyville merge, everyone learns to love and accept themselves, and Moxy finds her place in a child's arms. Spoiler alert? Nah, you knew it was coming. It's just a shame that this happy ending doesn't feel more earned. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about UglyDolls' messages about appearance. Does everyone agree about what's beautiful and what's not? What do Moxy and her friends learn about finding happiness and accepting themselves? 

  • What does Moxy's storyline tell us about self-image? Why didn't she think a child would love her as she is? How did her adventures at the Institute of Perfection ultimately give her the confidence to believe in herself?

  • Which parts of the movie were scary? Why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?

  • What does it mean to persevere? How did the characters in UglyDolls show perseverance? How did teamwork figure into their quest? Why are teamwork and perseverance important character strengths?

  • How does Mandy compare to the other "mean girl" doll characters? Do you think she was the only one of the four who had more depth to her?

Movie details

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