Director: Kelly Asbury | 87 minutes | animation, adventure | Dutch voice cast: Jamai Loman, Vajèn van den Bosch, Défano Holwijn | Original Voice Cast: Pitbull, Ice-T, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, Leehom Wang, Wanda Sykes, Gabriel Iglesias, Emma Roberts, Kelly Asbury, Jane Lynch, Natalie Martinez
Moxy, Wage, Wedgehead, Babo and Uglydog. Chances are that these names don’t mean anything to you. However, a lot of children will immediately become very enthusiastic, because they know right away that we are talking about the Uglydolls here. Uglydolls are toy figures that look slightly different from the average stuffed animal, because they are not quite perfect. Some have an extra eye – or just one eye – others have very short arms or a flat head. The Uglydolls were created by designers David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. When Sun-Min had to return to her native South Korea due to visa disputes, her lover David regularly sent her letters (it is clear that the dolls are almost twenty years old and originated at a time when letter post was not yet outdone by e -mail and social media), which he signed with an ugly orange doll. Sun-Min liked that doll so much that she decided to make it into a plush doll as a Christmas present for David. He in turn showed the doll to a friend of the owner of a toy store and the rest, as they say, is history.
About twenty different Uglydolls have now appeared, each of which has been assigned their own character traits, and more are added. In the world of the Uglydolls – ‘Uglyverse’ – ‘ugly’ means unique and special and is something to be celebrated. A message from which small children can learn something, they also find in Hollywood. As early as 2011 there was talk of a film about the Uglydolls, initially involving Illumination (‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Minions’) and Chris Meledandri (known from the ‘Ice Age’ series). The next big name associated with the project was Robert Rodriguez (‘Sin City’, 2005), who would write, direct and produce the film. Ultimately, Kelly Asbury would direct, because Rodriguez’s other projects (including the cyberpunk film ‘Alita: Battle Angel ‘. 2019) took more time than he had planned. His name is still on the role as producer and (co) creator of the story. Asbury has made his mark in the animation business at Disney and DreamWorks. As a director he has, among others, ‘Shrek 2’ (2004), ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ (2011) and ‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’ (2017) to his name.
All that talent and experience is not really reflected in the end result, because ‘Ugly Dolls’ is a fairly average video. In a toy factory, perfect dolls are created, which are ultimately destined to end up with ‘their’ child and to be cuddled. But there are also production errors; the dolls with something wrong. They are transported via a separate conveyor belt to a dump behind the factory, which they have renamed Uglyville and where they can lead their unsuspecting lives. Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson in the original version and Vajèn van den Bosch in the Dutch translation) is a pink Ugly Doll who still dreams of the big world, where she will be embraced by a child, even though Ox says , the mayor of Uglyville (Blake Shelton) that it is a myth she believes in, Until one day she climbs up the drain pipe with her friends and discovers that there is also an ‘Institute of Perfection’ where the well-lucked puppets are prepared for their adventure in the real world, where they get to make a child happy. But only dolls that pass the infamous Baptism of Fire are allowed to enter the human world. The institute’s leader is the insufferable Lou (Nick Jonas / Jamai Loman), who does everything he can to make it impossible for the ‘Uglies’ to realize their dream. But only dolls that pass the infamous Baptism of Fire are allowed to enter the human world. The institute’s leader is the insufferable Lou (Nick Jonas / Jamai Loman), who does everything he can to make it impossible for the ‘Uglies’ to realize their dream. But only dolls that pass the infamous Baptism of Fire are allowed to enter the human world. The institute’s leader is the insufferable Lou (Nick Jonas / Jamai Loman), who does everything he can to make it impossible for the ‘Uglies’ to realize their dream.
“There is a doll for every child and for every child there is a doll”, Moxy sings. Because ‘Ugly Dolls’ is a colorful musical in the tradition of ‘Trolls’ (2016), with many singers in the voice cast and many bouncy songs that make the glaze jump off your teeth. Incidentally, the figures are provided with excellent voices by Van den Bosch, Loman and rapper Défano Holwijn (in the role of comic sidekick Ugly Dog). The abundance of colors and sweetness will appeal to the little ones in particular; adult viewers will undoubtedly stumble mainly over the sometimes very silly jokes, the lack of imagination of the makers and the basically excellent message – embrace your imperfections, because they make you unique! – which loses strength because it is very roughly pushed down the throat.