Monday, August 3, 2009


The ugly truth about The Ugly Truth is that an R-rated romantic comedy can be just as inane as a PG-13 rom-com, just more potty talk. This is not to cast aspersions on the genre--we have a fine rom-com in The Proposal, (recently reviewed here) but when a film becomes so formulaic that you've sniffed out the ending in the first 15 minutes--there's nothing but lack of imagination, or laziness, or both to blame.

Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a romantically deprived morning TV news show producer. The show's ratings have been down, so Abby's boss wants to spice things up a bit. Enter Mike Chadway, (Gerard Butler) a "male chauvinist pig" who runs a cable access show called The Ugly Truth. Mike pulls no punches about what guys are really like--and ladies, it's what you've always feared--men are not that complicated and they've got one thing on their least initially. Just the thing to PERK UP the ratings, and so Mike is hired to do a regular segment on the morning show, much to Abby's dismay. She is mortified (as if she were Miss Manners) by some of the stuff he comes up with.

Now it just so happens that Abby has a crush on her Ken Doll neighbor, Colin (Eric Winter). So to keep her off his back, Mike agrees to play relationship coach to help her win the affection of perfect looking, but no hint of character in his face Colin. Abby wears an earpiece that Mike, from a distance, can use to funnel instructions to her on what to say and how to act when she's out with her new guy. The inevitable misinterpretations occur--and weird, inappropriate things come out of Abby's mouth. Cute, but it's an old bit we've seen in numerous other films.

And there's a When Harry Met Sally rip-off where Abby forgets she's wearing vibrating underwear (you had to be there) and has an orgasm in the middle of a business dinner. The underwear is controlled by a young boy who found the remote, and unwittingly keeps pushing Abby's buttons.

There IS some good chemistry between Heigl and Butler, with the old opposites attract even while they're sniping at each other all the time thing. But Heigl's character was designed strictly for laughs and titillation--and so she bounces around like a naive, silly school girl when she falls for Mr. Mannequin, but when she's hanging out with Mike she spews all kinds of filthiness from her mouth that you'd expect to hear from some perv dude drooling over a hot chick that just breezed past him. You're left with the impression that the screenwriters (newcomer Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullen Lutz, and Kirsten Smith) are putting words in her mouth just to remind us that we're watching an R-rated flick, rather than any sense that it stems from some essence of her personality.

The Ugly Truth not only smacks of laziness, but sloppiness as well. The first impression we get is that the morning show is being carried by a network. Then, the indication is that it's being broadcast to just the local Sacramento area. This little bit of contradiction is never cleared up, and nobody caught it before the film was edited and released.

The devil is in the details, and everyone involved in the making of The Ugly Truth should have sat down with old Beelzebub and gone over a checklist of things to do before releasing a movie.