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Long before you ease back in your automatic reclining theater seat to watch the new animated film UglyDolls, you know by the movie’s title what message is coming. It’s a righteous message: Physical traits do not determine a person’s worth. Predictably, the film exalts self-esteem to inappropriate heights. What’s intriguing, though, is a pro-life perspective the film teases: Imagery and situations often seem to equate dolls with babies. I sat forward, ready for UglyDolls to make the case. Would it?
Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) is a pink, amorphous stuffed doll with three teeth and an unidentifiable flap of something on one side of her head. She and her factory-reject friends live in Uglyville. Most of them long to be adopted (not the film’s word) to children in the “Big World” but aren’t sure such a place exists.
Moxy and four others climb back through the pipe that originally spit them out into Uglyville. They find the Institute of Perfection, a place of beautiful dolls run by the consummately coiffed, clothed, and conceited Lou (Nick Jonas). A large screen there shows girls cradling dolls as mothers would babies. Lou allows Moxy and her friends to undergo training to make dolls desirable to children, but he can’t hide his scorn for the malformed newcomers.
“You don’t belong in the Big World,” Lou tells Moxy. “You shouldn’t even exist.” (Like babies with Down syndrome?)
The PG-rated film has rich graphics and musical numbers with crafty lyrics but depicts tea-leaf reading and briefly shows a bare backside. Multiple “Oh my doll!” exclamations made me cringe. The message about accepting your imperfections swells to exhortations of “Find your own truth.”
If there’s a pro-life angle, it’s subtler than the one in Storks. Still, whether UglyDolls drops clues or coincidences, it doesn’t take much to connect the—dolls. Anyone watching this film who condones the disposal of flawed or unwanted “dolls” will squirm in his or her theater seat, even an automatic reclining one.