Film Review: UGLYDOLLS (China/Canada/USA 2019) ***

UglyDolls Poster

An animated adventure in which the free-spirited UglyDolls confront what it means to be different, struggle with a desire to be loved, and ultimately discover who you truly are is what matters most.


Kelly Asbury


Alison Peck (screenplay by), Sun-min Kim (based on characters by) |1 more credit »

UGLYDOLLS (one word) is an animated adventure in which the free-spirited UglyDolls confront what it means to be different, struggling with a desire to be loved, and ultimately discovering who they truly are and what matters most.  It is not a new concept.  Beauty is from the within and not in eternal appearances.  Films like I FEEL PRETTY, TROLLS and  now UGLY DOLLS stress the importance of internal beauty and to celebrate the idea of being different.

The film begins with a scene from the insides of a doll manufacturing facility.  The rejected dolls, damaged, for example with one eye, are picked out.  These UglyDolls live in a city called Uglyville while the perfect dolls live in their perfect world.  The protagonist is Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) an ugly female doll.  Her dream is to be adopted by a human child in the big world.

In animated features, the aim of the story is often to save the world or the world the characters are living in.  In UGLYDOLLS, the aim is Moxy’s dream come true.  And it does not take an intelligent child to guess the outcome of the film.

Though the film starts off rather oddly with all the Chinese banners as the film is a Chinese co-production, ULGYDOLLS is the love child of both Kelly Clarkson and Pitbull who have reported put in quiet a lot into the film.  Both have contributed their music and with Clarkson a few of the original songs.  The film clearly contains one too many songs, which often sound identical.  The best musical number is performed by Lou (voiced and sung by Nick Jonas), the super good looking perfect doll in Perfectland) with super cool animated dance moves that demand to be imitated by the youngsters.  Unfortunately Lou is a nasty dictator hiding behind the blond hair and good looks.

The Moxy character is surrounded by her assortment of friends, the most notable voiced by comedienne Wanda Sykes and singer Pitbull.  Like Moxy, these are all cardboard characters that are not given much to do but crack the occasional side joke.  The only interesting and different character in the movie is Mamdy, one of the perfect dolls who is not really that perfect as she has imperfect eyes that are hidden behind huge classes.  She shows that pretty dolls need not be mean dolls.  She becomes Moxy’s friend.  They end up helping each other out.  The characters in ULGLYDOLLS are silly rather than goofy.  Silly means toned down and less funny than goofy.

UGYDOLLS is not truly original.  The film follows other animated successes like TROLLS (also featuring ugly characters), TOY STORY and even the LEGO MOVIE (with a song paralleling ‘Everything is Awesome’ sung by Moxy when she gets up in the morning that runs a positive fresh outlook for the day.

UGLYDOLLS is not that bad a film, though obviously catered to younger children who will laugh at anything, even unfunny stuff on screen.



Film Review: HIDDEN FIGURES (USA 2016) ***

hidden_figures_movie_poster.jjpg.jpgDirected by Theodore Melfi

Writers: Allison Schroeder (screenplay), Theodore Melfi (screenplay)

Stars: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons

Review by Gilbert Seah

HIDDEN FIGURES is given a limited theatre release at Christmas to qualify for the Oscar nominations. Obviously, 20th Century Fox hopes the film will strike it big at the Academy Awards.

Movies cover the hot topic of racial tensions in a number of ways. There is the angry rile up the emotions LOVING, THE BIRTH OF A NATION or the quieter FENCES(also opening during Christmas) where racial problem are irked out by hard-working law abiding citizens in the long run. In HIDDEN FIGURES, racial tension is covered in a whole different light – in a feel good crowd pleasing movie.

As the film proudly annoys at the start with the titles on screen “Based on true events”, HIDDEN FIGURES tells the true, little-known story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and ’60s and played a major role in sending astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) worked as engineers and “human computers” to push the limits of mathematics — as well as the limits of race and gender in the scientific community. Expect a little bit of romance and a look at the racial tensions of the Civil Rights era in this drama that promises to provide some great, real-life role models for girls and people of colour in STEM fields.

There are a lot of silliness in HIDDEN FIGURES. The most obvious of which is the dialogue penned for astronaut John Glenn (he passed away this month) who is the first American shot into Earth’s orbit. When told of the entry velocity of the spaceship into Earth’s gravitational pull, he remarks: “That’s one hell of a speeding ticket.” When informed where the craft will land, he says: “I always wanted to swim in the Bahamas.” If these were actual words Glen spoke, he must have been quite a clownish goon. The lyrics of the films’ songs (apaprently penned by artists like Pharrell Williams) like: “No more running…” and “Look what you done to me…” which underline the events happening in the film are not only unnecessary but yes, silly to the point of laughter.

Performance-wsie, the three female leads can do o harm. It is also refreshing (and funny) to see supporting actor Jim Parsons (from TV’s THE BIG BANG THOERY) in a thoroughly straight role as an antagonist or the only female in his department. Kevin Costner as the boss adds a certain dignity, welcome in the film.

HIDDEN FIGURES could have turned up a really excellent film instead of this mediocrity written down for audiences to feel good during the Christmas season. It is a question that the director and scriptwriter not having enough faith on the source material that it would work on its own without pumping in additional over-sweeteners.



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