The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth

Katherine Heigl listens intently while Gerard Butler tells her the ugly truth.

(Columbia) Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Eric Winter, John Michael Higgins, Nick Searcy, Cheryl Hines, Kevin Connolly, Bree Turner, Jesse D. Goins, Noah Matthews, John Sloman, Nathan Corddry, Bonnie Sommerville, Yvette Nicole Brown. Directed by Robert Luketic

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that men and women evolved from the same species, so vast the difference in our way of approaching things. Finding a common ground is a necessity for relationships to work, a task that can seem impossible at times.

Abby Richter (Heigl) would seem to have a great life. She’s an award-winning producer for a Sacramento morning show, much admired by her superiors and industry peers. She has a knack for making quick decisions that are generally the right ones. The same is not true, unfortunately, for her romantic life. The attributes that allow her to take control over the chaos that is her job are the ones that frighten men off. Yes, she’s a little bit neurotic but as beautiful as she is, you’d think there’d be someone willing to look past that.

Mike Chadway (Butler) is a local access cable personality (do they still have those?) who espouses theories of relations between the sexes that would do a Neanderthal proud. He’s flabby, opinionated, scruffy and a bit of a slob. After yet another disastrous date Abby stumbles on his show and appalled at the opinions of the host, calls in. He gets her to admit that while she has specific ideas of who the perfect man is, she hasn’t met anyone who fills the criteria.

As good a producer as Abby is, the chaos is catching up to her. The ratings of her morning show are tanking, and the harried station manager (Searcy) has no choice but to make some drastic changes. He hires Chadway in a move that flat-out leaves the real world behind. The loutish Chadway spends most of his first broadcast on the show psychoanalyzing the marriage of the co-anchors (Higgins and Hines) and proclaims that the relationship is on the rocks because they aren’t having enough sex. Predictably, this revelation turns the couple into a couple of horny middle-aged teenagers. This infuriates Abby, even more so because the ratings are going through the roof.

Abby’s eye, however, has fallen on the handsome orthopedic surgeon (Winter) who has moved in next door. He seems at best ambivalent about her and in desperation she turns to the resident expert on male-female relations – Chadway – to help her win her man. His instructions prove to be just the thing she needed and the relationship takes off. So does the working relationship between Abby and Chadway.

Director Luketic previously helmed Legally Blonde (two of the three female co-writers on The Ugly Truth also worked on that film) but this isn’t anywhere close to the charm displayed by his previous film. The script is by-the-numbers rom-com chick flick formula, so much so that there is absolutely no suspense as to where this will end up whatsoever. I will say that it is well-made formula, however, with some genuinely funny moments.

There is some good chemistry between the leads. Heigl is making a living out of playing uptight career women – I’d love to see her in a role that is neither uptight nor professional. Butler has an easy charm that was much evident in P.S. I Love You and continues to be on display here as the caveman with a heart of gold. So much of the movie revolves around the leads in fact that there is little for the supporting cast to do. This is definitely Heigl and Butler’s movie to make or break.

The movie is just poorly written. One gets the feeling that it went through endless re-writes and revisions until it became obvious that certain things left over from one version were not fully coherent in the final one. For example, the television station where this all takes place is said early on to be an independent station, yet they are visited by network executives which to be fair, leads to one of the funniest scenes in the movie, involving a pair of vibrating panties and a remote in the hands of a kid.

That leads to another point. Despite having been written by three women, this is raunchy beyond reason. The F-word is dropped with such numbing regularity that you’d think the F-Bomb had become a carpet bomb. Not that I mind seeing Heigl in lingerie, mind you, but it seemed unnecessary and exploitative here.

There are a lot of reasons to like this movie, and a lot of reasons to despise it. There are certainly some very talented people on both sides of the camera that worked on it, and if Heigl and Butler had been given better material, this could have been one of the summer’s highlights. Instead, it’s just a passing entertainment made bearable by its attractive stars. It’s too bad that the writers, who had previously given us Legally Blonde couldn’t have lived up to those standards but I guess everyone is entitled to a bad choice and that’s the ugly truth.

WHY RENT THIS: Some generally funny moments and surprisingly solid chemistry between the attractive leads go a long way.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Poorly written, full of clichés and generally uneven.

FAMILY VALUES: Far too raunchy and potty-mouthed for kids.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although the film’s climax takes place at the Sacramento Hot-Air Balloon Festival, no such festival exists.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Children of Huang Shi

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