Animated musical comedy plays by the rules

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Plush dolls learn the value of individuality and non-conformity in "UglyDolls," a third-rate animated musical comedy that could use a bit of the free spirit it preaches. 

There's a doll for every kid. That's what Moxy (voice of Kelly Clarkson), the gap-toothed squid-like plushie at the center of "UglyDolls," believes in her stuffing-filled heart. "Today's the day," she sings, ever the optimist, convinced she's on her way to entering "the big world" and becoming the property of a beaming young child.    

She doesn't understand that Uglyville, the community where she resides, is the home of reject toys, pushed off the toy line because of production abnormalities. Eager to explore her world, she teams up with a handful of friends — including Ugly Dog (Pitbull), Wage (Wanda Sykes) and Babo (Gabriel Iglesias) — and discovers the Institute of Perfection, a finishing school for dolls where they're taught how how to navigate obstacles like dogs and vacuum cleaners before they're sent off to the real world.

It's there they encounter Lou (Nick Jonas), the prototype for perfection in the doll world, and a bully to those he perceives to be lesser than him. Moxy and her pals stand up to him and, wouldn't you know it, lessons are learned, songs are sung (and quickly forgotten) and happiness is ultimately achieved. 

If only the journey to get there were more fun.

"UglyDolls," based on the line of dolls of the same name, plays it safe in its simplistic attitude and its vaguely inspirational messaging, and it exhorts the value of being one's self by sticking as closely to the blueprint of today's animated fables as possible. For a movie about supposed ugliness, "UglyDolls" works overtime to be pretty. 

'UglyDolls'

GRADE: C

Rated PG: for thematic elements and brief action

Running time: 87 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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