Ugly Dolls – Movie Review


Synopsis of Ugly Dolls by STXfilms:

“Unconventionality rules in UGLYDOLLS, STXfilms’ new animated musical adventure starring the acting and singing voices of Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, Blake Shelton and Pitbull. The film is inspired by the unique and beloved global plush toy phenomenon launched in 2001.

In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weird is celebrated, strange is special and beauty is embraced as more than simply meets the eye. Here, the free-spirited Moxy and her UglyDoll friends live every day in a whirlwind of bliss, letting their freak flags fly in a celebration of life and its endless possibilities. The endearingly unique residents of Uglyville occasionally look to the sky above the town, where a new UglyDoll will appear and be embraced by the community.

Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) loves her square-peg life in this round-hole town, but her curiosity about all things leads her to wonder if there’s something – anything – on the other side of the mountain which nestles Uglyville. Moxy gathers a group of her closest friends and sets off to find what’s on the other side. They discover another world – Perfection – a town where more conventional dolls are trained in protocols before they graduate and are sent to the “real” world to find the love of a child.

In Perfection, Moxy and her crew are subject to the manipulations of Lou (Nick Jonas), the perfect doll in charge of training recruits. Here, the UglyDolls will confront what it means to be different, struggle with their desire to be loved, and ultimately discover that you don’t have to be perfect to be amazing because who you truly are is what matters most.”

Movie Info:

  • Rating:
    PG (for thematic elements and brief action)
  • Genre:
    Action & Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Musical & Performing Arts
  • Runtime:
  • Studio:



Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

Transfiguring Adoption Thoughts:

This storyline was created for the general public to enjoy (as opposed to being created specifically for the foster care and/or adoptive community). When looking at this film through the lens of the general public, it is a movie with cute characters, a simple plot with a deep message, and upbeat music throughout. The film appears to be targeted for elementary school-aged children – however, as we discuss later, the message of the film can be healthy to discuss with middle school and even high school-aged children.

The story centers around the character Moxy, who is an “ugly” doll, or a doll with imperfections and asymmetries. Moxy has a dream that she will one day be able to be paired with a child. In her quest to fulfill her dream, Moxy and her friends pay an unexpected trip to a city where the dolls strive to achieve perfection under the leadership of a doll named, Lou. During this process, the dolls from Uglyville have their self-worth and self-esteem heavily challenged as their “flaws” are made out to make them less than worthy of achieving dreams, and they are labeled as “rejects.”

** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **

How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?

Foster and adoptive children can feel that they are different from their peers in a negative way simply because they believe that their past stories are “negatively” unique when compared to the appearance of their peers’ stories. They also feel discarded and rejected like the dolls in the movie. This can lead children from traumatic backgrounds to strive to create stories which they feel will make them more appealing to friends. In their attempt to achieve this “perfect” image and to earn relationships, children may lose the abilities and unique qualities that make them special.

Pair the previous emotions with the fact that our children can have an unquenchable, and in some cases unhealthy, need to be accepted by their peers due with a lack of modeling for forming healthy relationships. This can lead foster or adoptive children to make poor judgements in forming friendships in order to simply get any attention at all.

The Ugly Dolls play out this scenario as they work to become “perfect” and hide or squelch their “imperfections” so that they will finally be able to be paired with a child. Throughout much of the film, “perfect” doll, Lou, is quick to point out the flaws of other dolls, which simply makes the ugly dolls try harder to be something they are not in order to attain their dreams.

This movie is a great opportunity for your family to be able to talk about being a unique and special person. It is also a good opportunity to discuss good qualities your family values in friendships.

Discussion Points:

  • Self-Esteem – Self-Worth
    Even adults want to understand their self-worth and have a good understanding of their identity. As was mentioned above, our children have this journey of discovering their identity complicated with past trauma. Also, our culture seems to have a tendency to compare and measure everything so that in every aspect of life we know if we are measuring up to various standards. Our children are no different and can be susceptible to comparing their identity and stories with their peers while inwardly judging themselves on how they feel they do or do not measure up. This movie is interesting in that the ugly dolls seem to have healthy identities at the beginning of the movie, but this deteriorates when the dolls are told by the “perfect” dolls that they are ugly, flawed rejects. Also, viewers witness “perfect” doll, Mandy, make a journey from fearing her uniqueness to embracing it. Through this journey, Mandy transforms from a shy and timid doll to a being with leadership skills and confidence.It would be great for families to talk about Mandy’s transformation – specifically looking at her personality before and after embracing her identity. It would also be worth discussing the thoughts and feelings of the ugly dolls when they felt good about who they were as opposed to when they were made to feel as sub-beings. Finally, it would be good for families to talk about motivations for doing activities or making a change to appearance (weight loss, make-up, clothing choices) – specifically talking about whether you’re making these choices to earn acceptance or because it’s something you want.
  • Friendships and Bullying
    It is common to hear that a foster or adoptive child is having a difficult time making friends. Many times they did not grow up in an environment where healthy relationships were modeled for them, and they may have been forced to make multiple moves during their childhood. Thus, they may not have the social abilities to easily make and keep friends and ascertain if someone will provide a healthy friendship. Children may also have strong feelings of rejection caused from being taken from their birth family and thus have a limitless thirst and need for feeling accepted by peers, which can cause children to set aside judgement to pursue any bit of attention – even if it is given to them by a bully or emotionally harmful person.The ugly dolls can be seen living in a healthy environment in Uglyville. The inhabitants celebrated their uniqueness and special abilities. The dolls seemed to be happy and thrive in this environment. The dolls seeking “perfection,” however, are in an opposite environment. These dolls can be seen acting selfishly and calling each other names to build themselves up. They are generally more timid and shy than the ugly dolls. Their leader, Lou, can quite easily be seen as a bully who is constantly holding himself up as the definition of “perfection” by pointing out how “imperfect” everyone else appears.

    The girl doll, Mandy, initially is a part of Lou’s head group of “perfect” dolls. She can be seen second guessing herself, pretending to share thoughts she doesn’t agree with, and living in fear that she will be seen for who she really is. By the end of the movie we see that by surrounding herself with people who applaud her uniqueness and care for her, she transforms into more of a leader-type character who is bold and caring.

    Families will do well to watch for themes of friendship and bullying so that they can talk with their child about the qualities of a good friend and how true friends can enhance us as opposed to hold us back. It would also be beneficial to discuss the character of Lou and look for motivations for why he might be acting like a bully.

Cautionary Points:

  • Perfection
    Through a large part of this movie there is an underlying message that says, “You have to be perfect to be accepted.” Naturally, the movie dissolves this misconception by the end, BUT for much of the movie this theme will be presented to viewers. We feel that it is a mild theme that simply follows under the storyline. However, if you have children who struggle with feelings of self-worth, you may want to watch this film before showing it to them. At the very least you should be available to talk with your child.
  • Fantasy Solutions and “A Child for Every Doll”
    From the very beginning of the movie, the main character, Moxy, expresses the idea that every doll has a child waiting for them. This is a belief that is mildly carried throughout the movie and is the motivator for the ugly dolls to strive for “perfection.” For children in foster care or who are waiting for a family, this could be a problematic theme as real life doesn’t always play out with a fairytale ending. Sometimes children do not get to return to their birth family, and sometimes children age out of the foster care system without being adopted. Caregivers should be aware of this theme in the movie and be available to talk with your child about this theme.

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It’s Your Turn:

  1. Which ugly doll was your favorite? Why?
  2. What was Moxy’s dream?
  3. How did Moxy feel about herself at the beginning of the movie?
  4. Why didn’t Mandy like herself? Why did she like herself at the end of the movie?
  5. How did Mandy act at the beginning of the movie?
  6. How did she act differently by the end of the movie?
  7. Why do you think Lou was so mean to people?
  8. How are you different from the other people in your family?
  9. Is it okay to be different than other people?
  10. What should you do if someone makes you feel bad about who you are?


Written by
Co-founder of Transfiguring Adoption. A husband and father of four adopted children. Darren is a dynamic graphic artist and social media manager. He is an avid fan of the Harry Potter series and a lover of coffee. Twitter: LinkedIn: Facebook: Instagram: @darren_fink

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