At a recent Kelly Clarkson concert, the singer joked with the audience that she had always dreamed about playing a princess in a movie. Instead, in her animated feature debut, she is cast as an ugly doll. She laughed at the irony, but was actually very proud to promote the new film. As she should be. Having screened Ugly Dolls with a theater full of parents and kids Wednesday night, I very much enjoyed this joyful gem of a movie.
Clarkson stars as Moxy, a doll who was rejected by a toy factory for having a manufacturing imperfection. She, like several other "ugly dolls," end up in Uglyville instead of in the arms of a child. But they don't know that - at least not until they discover Lou and his "perfection" factory, where immaculate-looking dolls train to enter the outside world. When Moxy and her friends discover they are "ugly," they are disheartened. But Moxy's moxy doesn't let her down, and after a series of uplifting songs, she finds her purpose again.
Clarkson is joined by other celebrities who are musicians first and actors second, including Janelle Monáe, Blake Shelton, Bebe Rexha, Pitbull, and Nick Jonas, who plays Lou, the villain. Amusingly, this seems to be the first time Clarkson and Jonas have collaborated since Jonas and his brothers sang about her in "Year 3000" (1:43 mark). The cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Emma Roberts, and Gabriel Iglesias. With such a set of talented artists, the Ugly Dolls soundtrack was catchy and even memorable, a highlight being Clarkson and Monáe's duet "Unbreakable" in the latter half of the film, which is accompanied by some rather creative visual effects.
The other feature that stood out was the film's consistently funny one-liners - some for the kids and plenty more for the parents. I laughed a lot.
The only reason I can't give it higher than a B is because this formula has been done so many times. A group of misfits find that there's a world beyond their small existence and through of series of conflicts eventually reach that great beyond. By the end, instead of pitying themselves, they embrace what makes them different. It's a wonderful message, of course. It's just one we've seen once or twice before. In fact, I've seen the same plot in multiple movies just the past couple years, like Trolls and Small Foot.
Still, the one-liners, catchy tunes, and the extremely sweet and sentimental ending are worth it. Seriously, the ending is magic. It'll make you smile perhaps as much as meeting baby Groot at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy.
We give it a: B.
Ugly Dolls is in theaters Friday, May 3.