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

UglyDolls Poster
Trailer

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.

Director:

Kelly Asbury

Writers:

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.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqlEGYo0xCA

Film Review: SHERLOCK GNOMES (USA/UK 2018) ***1/2

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Sherlock Gnomes Poster
Trailer

Garden gnomes, Gnomeo & Juliet, recruit renowned detective Sherlock Gnomes to investigate the mysterious disappearance of other garden ornaments.

Director:

John Stevenson

Writers:

Ben Zazove (screenplay by), Andy Riley (story by) | 9 more credits »

 

SHERLOCK GNOMES is the 3D animated sequel to the 2011 successful animated GNOMEO AND JULIET.  In case one is wondering what Sherlock Gnomes has to do with the original characters, SHERLOCK GNOMES the sequel has Gnomeo and Juliet in it, as two of the main characters, once again voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt respectively.  Michael Caine and Dame Maggie Smith reprise their voice roles (immediately recognizable) as gnomes Lord Redbrick and Lady Bluebury.

When the film opens, gnomes are being stolen from gardens in London, England.  They will be smashed and destroyed within 24 hours unless Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and Dr. Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) foil the culprit who turns out to be Professor Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou).  He is foiled in the London Museum of Natural History and presumed dead.  The film then switches to the garden of Gnomeo and Juliet where Juliet is given the task of making the garden work by spring, the next season.  But gnomes start disappearing once again and Sherlock establishes that Gnomeo and Juliet’s garden is next.  It is!  All the gnomes go missing except for Gnomeo and Juliet who happen to be out of the garden at the time.  The four solve the mystery and save the day – and the garden!

Stevenson is no newbie to animation having directed KUNG FU PANDA and worked in the art department of the SHREK films.  SHERLOCK GNOMES benefits from his experience as evident in the humour that caters to both kids and adults.  For one, the bond between Holmes and Dr. Watson and enmity between between them and their arch enemy Moriarty as in the Sir Conan Doyle novels are kept respected.  The villainous Moriarty is fashioned after Batman’s joker in his laughter and antics, he even saying like in the BATMAN film, that there is a love affair between him and his enemy.  Jamie Demetriou does a marvellous job voicing the cartoonish villain, as do his animators.

Sir Elton John executively produced the film and his songs are featured in the film.  There is even an Elton John gnome playing a sparkled piano.  Immediately recognizable is “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” that is played during the opening credits.  The song is relevant to the film’s message.  The story involves the respect between Holmes and Dr. Watson and between Gnomeo and Juliet.  Both couples are having relationship problems that need to be solved.  These are serious issues dished out for the adults while the younger audience can relish the childish gnome dances.

The animation is impressive especially of the gargoyles that guard the kidnapped gnomes.  The gnomes are also sufficiently detailed in their 3D looks.  Of the voice characterizations, Ejiofor and Demetriou stand out.  Johnny Depp gets away with his British accent as Holmes.

SHERLOCK GNOMES’  budget comes just under $60 million compared to GNOMEO AND JULIET’s $36 million.  It is still a bargain considering Disney’s expensive animated features.  The almost perfect family film!

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR-sefx8ncI

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