Right off the bat I feel like they wrote the songs for this first and then tried to figure out a movie around it, throwing in whatever character they could make work. It’s not actually that far fetched when you consider the cast is made up of mostly singers – Kelly Clarkson, Charlie XCX, Nick Jonas, Even Pitbull is in there hamming it up as Uglydog. The thing is, when I go to a musical (and this is certainly NOT being advertised as a typical Disney style musical. it’s on the poster, but nowhere in the trailers) I expect showtunes (maybe that’s just my twenty years in theatre talking). This is packed with Youtube friendly pop songs, and the various scenes seem like set pieces designed to get us from one song to the next. Even my kids noticed it, and it was their main complaint.
It’s a simple story about your flaws making you beautiful and valuable. Longing for an owner to love, our uglydoll heroine Moxie leaves Uglytown with a group of friends and they spend the film trying to pass Quality Control testing led by a meglomaniac Aryan doll who is determined to keep the uglydolls tucked away out of sight in Uglytown or worse yet – RECYCLED! It’s a safe and typical kids movie storyline that hits all the required beats and that we’ve seen a hundred times before (in this year alone).
What makes this so disappointing is how much this feels like a missed opportunity. I was a young parent when the Uglydolls came out. There was something rebellious and edgy about them. IceBat was my daughters favorite toy before their popularity skyrocked. Even the presidant’s daughters had Uglydolls (for the record, my kids had them first. Barry was obviously copying ME.) This would have been the perfect opportunity to create a subversive comedy – something like the Muppets back in the 80’s. Something edgy and sharp that adults would get, while the kids have fun watching the silly characters. Once in a while we get a post modern gag like the Oliver! homage, but that’s about as close as it gets. Uglydolls is as safe and typical as can be. That’s a shame because Uglydolls aren’t really a thing anymore. Even three years ago, the name alone might have been enough to carry them over the finish line, but in 2019, the brand has kind of run out of gas. Small children may dig it as a one-time afternoon diversion, but this cookie cutter entry into the already oversaturated kids film market does nothing to distinguish itself and likely won’t reignite the popularity of the brand. If anything, it’s the final nail in the coffin.
Uglydolls opens nationwide on May 3rd.
(oh and that “All Dolled Up” number? I already did that YEARS ago!)
Man, that’s some ominous music – and there is no Canon logo here. None of this bodes well.
I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t even know this one existed. And with this kind beginning, it’s very different tone. I’m a little perplexed at what Bronson’s doing at a fashion show… It doesn’t quite read correctly. Still it’s a very 90s sort of intro and look.
Bronson is finally beginning to show his age as well. While in previous films he could pass for 40, in this one he is looking every bit of man in his late 60s and early 70s. It’s a problem, and one that I would usually dismiss… but the truth is the lines on his face are so deep that just a can of hair dye wouldn’t have been enough to make him look younger. The fact that he issurrounded by much younger actors brings their problem into even sharper focus.
Of course Bronson should know better than to ever propose to anyone because it means she is immediately going to be assaulted – though to be fair he probably couldn’t have foreseen her getting her face smashed into a mirror by a transvestite in the ladies room. Like I said, things feel different this time – even that moment where he snaps the chamber back into his vigilante gun, it’s framed differently, almost heroically. Indeed, when I saw the way they were lighting both the previous and following scenes with that dramatic blue lighting – I knew I was in a comic book.
The lawyers, headed by Saul Rubinek, are practically cartoons and the mafiosos are standard issue bad guys with big guns and lots of bullets. Also, don’t forget the obvious stunt men in bad wigs. Hint if the stunt man has his full face on display, you don’t want to show the stunt in slow motion!
Despite all this, it’s the best looking of all the Death Wish films. It’s nicely shot, on great looking sets. A bit of a drag now that Bronson doesn’t start killing people until literally the halfway point of the film. In fact, for an action film it’s actually quite slow. And then, once Bronson finally starts taking the law into his own hands, he’s not shooting! He is using new and innovative ways of dispatching his enemies but that’s not what the deathwish films are all about is it? Acorrding to Brnson’s Loose, he’d begun to tire of the same old thing and really wanted more interesting kills and found a director who agreed with him. It’s weird, even when he does use a gun, it’s not a gunshot that usually kills the bad guy – they fall into a vat of acid or ground up or some other ridiculous whammy. All around it’s just a very different kind of action from what we’ve seen in this series, and I can’t help but wonder if this didn’t contribute to it being a box office failure.
There’s more to it than that of course, this movie was released in 1994, after the death of the over-the-top action film (in my opinion, the last action hero signals the end of that era – and that film was released in 1993). Indeed, Stallone and Schwarzenegger were both trying their hands at comedies, seeing the decline of the action genre. This, combined with a Bronson that genuinely looks too old for the role, then budget, and practically no publicity (I don’t remember seeing a single commercial for this movie – and in 1994 I would have been just old enough to go see it by myself), it’s no wonder the film sunk. It’s not a bad movie in of itself, but it’s an odd sequel and definite direct to video fodder.
So, that wraps up the Deathwish series doesn’t it?
Wait, what do you mean there’s one more film?