The Ugly Truth, a new romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl of television’s Grey’s Anatomy and Gerard Butler (300) is, in truth, pretty ugly. The story of this film revolves around Abby Richter, an uber-organized, always prepared morning television producer. Abby is a successful and smart control freak and is, of course, also hopelessly single. She has a mental list of attributes that her Mr. Perfect will inevitably embody.
Enter caddish Mike Chadway, a chauvinistic cable access television show host who would much rather have lust than love. Mike pulls no punches when he lays bare male psychology for everyone to see. His low brow sensibilities eventually collide with Abby’s hyper-organized world after he is hired to spice up the morning news on Abby’s carefully crafted and dignified show. In The Ugly Truth Mike proves to be helpful, however, when his insight into the male mind helps Abby land a date with her gorgeous neighbor, Colin (played to perfection by Eric Winter),who also just happens to be an orthopedic surgeon, a cat lover and new in town. With Mike’s coaching, Abby finally meets her Prince Charming, but can Prince Charming like the real Abby?
As chick flicks go, The Ugly Truth is actually fairly guy-driven. Yes, there is romance and comedy, but what Mike coaxes Abby into becoming resembles the ultimate male fantasy rather than a real woman. He takes her shopping for a sexy new dress, lingerie and hair extensions. He also teaches her not to criticize men and to laugh at their jokes, especially the jokes that are not funny. He even buys her a pair of vibrating underwear in an attempt to sex her up, leading to inevitable public hilarity when she tries them on for the first time.
While The Ugly Truth is a fairly good examination of what men and women want from each other and how they are essentially different, the film ends up somewhat lopsided. Men want the librarian and the stripper while women want sensitivity and maturity. Unfortunately, the message that ultimately comes across in The Ugly Truth is that women really should play to men’s desires while expecting men to be utterly incapable of anything beyond the basest of instincts. While I am a big believer in accepting people for who they are, I also believe that acceptance should go both ways in relationships. If men are allowed to be brutish pigs, then women should be allowed to be responsible or prudish. In keeping with the film’s story, perhaps opposites do attract and that’s why men and women are drawn to each other in the first place.
The cast in The Ugly Truth actually works well together, with the supporting cast being especially funny. Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins are hilarious as Georgia and Larry, the two anchors of the morning news who happen to be married, and in a bit of an uncomfortable situation as Georgia makes more money than Larry does. Bree Turner who plays Abby’s associate producer, Joy, is properly exuberant and love struck when called upon. Noah Matthews is great as Mike’s nephew, who regularly comes to Mike for advice about girls. On the whole, however, the supporting cast in The Ugly Truth is mostly overlooked in this film. They are funny when called upon, but they could have been used more. Character development, in general, is somewhat lacking. Kevin Connolly (of HBO’s Entourage) is thoroughly underused as the date that Abby found online. The fact that she printed and brought both his online profile and background check is a little too heavy-handed and a display of Abby’s controlling nature. Katherine Heigl’s Abby and Gerard Butler’s Mike are not quite real people, but mostly caricatures. Heigl brings surprising energy and effort to the table, while Butler does come up with some rakish charm, but the film never quite lets them be full three dimensional people whom you might know and love in real life.
In all, The Ugly Truth director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde and Monster-In-Law) has crafted an uneven examination of how and why people fall in love. Romantic comedies can be formulaic by nature, but what usually saves them is their heart. If the story is going to be predictable, then the audience must fall in love with the characters and the story in order for the film to be worth watching. The Ugly Truth is mostly enjoyable, but lacks enough heart to make it truly lovable. The chemistry between Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler is decent, but the story is a little too choppy to give viewers enough time to root for Abby and Mike to get together.
In The Ugly Truth Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler have one or two pivotal scenes where they manage to make the psychology of the film work, and we see exactly why Mike has given up on love, or as Mike puts it, “Better a floozy than a doozy.” Those few moments are, unfortunately, not enough to make the rest of the film memorable.
The Ugly Truth
Rated R. Runtime 96 min. Theatrical release 7/24/2009.
PR.com Rating: C+