UglyDolls Parent Guide
It may be a long advertisement for the UglyDoll toys, but the film still manages to deliver a sweet message about self-acceptance.
Parent Movie Review
If you’ve ever walked through a toy store and been unnerved by rows of identical dolls staring at you, you’ll appreciate the concept behind UglyDolls. The franchise is the invention of husband and wife duo David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. These plushies began as novelty toys and characters in a series of children’s books. From there, they’ve steadily gained a place in pop culture. As the name suggests, they’re weird looking—floppy and squishy with buck teeth and googly eyes—and stand in stark contrast to the idealized bodies and fashionable outfits of most dolls. And it’s this obvious difference that’s the focus of this film.
The story begins in a toy factory which apparently specializes in the creation of cute stuffed animals and dolls. But occasionally, mistakes are made and an imperfect toy exits the production line. These rejects are sent through a pipe to the remarkable town of Uglyville. It doesn’t sound like much, but this village of cardboard and fabric scraps houses a thriving community of cheerful, misshapen creatures. Moxy, (voiced by Kelly Clarkson,) is foremost among them—an eternal optimist who enjoys her life in Uglyville, but still wishes she belonged to a loving child.
Eager to pursue her dream, Moxy brings along a few friends and climbs up the delivery pipe in search of the wider world. A wrong turn takes her to Perfection—another inexplicable village somewhere in the walls of the toy factory. Unlike Uglyville, Perfection is home to the dolls that made the cut—a bunch of pristine boys and girls in matching uniforms. Here, any differences are shunned and publicly ridiculed by Lou, (voiced by Nick Jonas,) the most perfect doll of all. Naturally, he has nothing but disdain for Moxy and her friends but agrees to tolerate them as they accompany the other dolls of Perfection through the rigorous training required to enter the human world and be given to a child.
Watching these misfits compete with an army of identical prissy kids leads to plenty of silliness and slapstick scenarios. This clowning around is mostly harmless fun until the villain suddenly becomes a little too villainous and Moxy finds her very survival threatened. Consequently, parent’s largest concern in this film will be the cartoon violence. While the characters are usually impervious to harm, (they bounce off walls, get squished, flattened, drenched and messy,) there are moments of genuine peril and malice that may be troubling to the littlest viewers.
And, of course, Moxy and her friends struggle with the emotional toll of being belittled and labelled as unattractive mistakes. This leads to a prolonged scene in Uglyville where plush toys are too depressed to do daily tasks. When Lou finally gets his comeuppance for the verbal abuse he’s heaped upon them, the UglyDolls become vindictive. This is a real disappointment in a film about overcoming bullying by developing friendships and self-confidence. The filmmakers, it seems, were willing to challenge a few stereotypes, but not all of them.
Despite these flaws, UglyDoll’s theme of self-acceptance will resonate with many, and the goofy critters onscreen are a sweet celebration of the differences we all have. That’s a message that’s anything but ugly.Directed by Kelly Asbury. Starring Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, and Janelle Monáe . Running time: 87 minutes. Theatrical release May 3, 2019. Updated May 3, 2019
Watch the trailer for UglyDolls
Rating & Content Info
Why is UglyDolls rated PG? UglyDolls is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements and brief action
Violence: Dolls and stuffed animals kick, slap and hit each other, and make weapons out of knitting needles in a lengthy fight scene. Characters are dropped from great heights, run into walls, are stuffed in bags, and are involved in many other slapstick scenarios. Characters are nearly mulched by a frightening machine and are in peril of their lives before being rescued. Characters are chased by robotic creatures, including a giant robotic dog that chews, tosses, and sits on a few of them, with no harm done.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated May 3, 2019
UglyDolls Parents' Guide
Words hurt. Name-calling and gossiping can lead to tragic consequences—in the movie, the UglyDolls lose their desire to do anything when they learn that they were created by mistake. Do you ever encounter name-calling and gossip? What can you do to avoid participating in these things?
When Moxy doesn’t feel confident, her friends encourage her and remind her of her own value. Do you struggle with low self esteem? Who can you go to for encouragement and advice? In what ways can you learn to appreciate your own value?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
For stories about toys that live, young readers can get their parents to read Jane Hissey’s The Old Bear Collection. Gentle stories and beautiful pencil caryon illustrations are sure to be a hit with preschoolers.
And, of course, there are the classics about living toys: Margery Williams Bianco’s The Velveteen Rabbit; A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Dan Freeman’s Corduroy, and Lynne Reid Banks’ The Indian in the Cupboard.
Readers of all ages will enjoy Bill Watterson’s classic Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, now available in multiple book collections. The ageless story of the mischievous Calvin and his stuffed (or maybe real) tiger have enchanted readers for decades.
Parents looking for kids’ books that foster self-acceptance have lots to choose from. There is Munro Leaf’s classic, The Story of Ferdinand, about a bull who doesn’t want to fight in the arena but prefers to smell flowers in the pasture. Robert Kraus’ Leo the Late Bloomer will comfort children who might not feel like they fit in. With It’s Okay to Be Different, Todd Parr gives a straightforward message with bright, simple illustrations. In Giraffes Can’t Dance, Giles Andreae and Guy Parker Rees have created a titular giraffe who desperately wants to dance, despite the challenges posed by his long legs. Another animal with unlikely dreams is a penguin who wants to fly. His tale is told by Lita Judge in Flight School.
Christian parents will also appreciate Max Lucado’s aptly named You Are Special.
And any parent who wants to discourage bullying or unkindness based on differences will be happy to turn to Dr. Seuss’s classic, Sneetches and Other Stories.
Related home video titles:
The classic film about toys that are actually alive is Toy Story. Viewers who can’t get enough of Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the gang in Andy’s toy box can watch the sequels: Toy Story 2and Toy Story 3.
There are numerous family friendly films about looking beyond the surface and accepting others for who they are. Wondertells the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a genetic defect that leaves him with significant facial deformities.
Born with a pig’s nose and ears, Penelope struggles to find a blue-blooded man who is willing to look beyond her porcine features and break the curse by marrying her.
The children’s classic Charlotte’s Web reminds viewers that even the most unlikely of people can become close friends.