The Ugly Truth
Directed by Robert Luketic. Starring Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Eric Winter, Bree Turner, Nick Searcy, Cheryl Hines, John Michael Higgins, Kevin Connolly. (2009, R, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 24, 2009
It’s the same old story: An uptight professional woman finds love with her polar opposite, an earthy male chauvinist. The outcome is never in question in these Hollywood romantic comedies; it’s the getting there that makes the movie sparkle or not. Heigl and Butler prove to be no Hepburn and Tracy in this regard. The characters they play never spring genuinely to life. Any comic banter is dulled by Butler’s strained effort to swallow his Scottish brogue and deliver his lines in some kind of inscrutable American accent and Heigl’s halfhearted attempt to dial down her glamour quotient. Yet the actors are only the most visible aspects of this crassly conceived movie (even though Heigl also can boast a producing credit for The Ugly Truth). The film seems calculated to be a “girls night out” picture with a racy “R” bite that includes plenty of profanity and faked orgasms. Its plotting (by newcomer Nicole Eastman and screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, who both scored much better with their scripts for Legally Blonde, Ella Enchanted, and The House Bunny) is utterly predictable. Luketic’s direction is workmanlike at best; the staging underserves the story, the lighting washes out the characters, and the makeup does the actors no favors. Talented supporting actors (Hines and Higgins as bickering TV anchors and Connolly as a flummoxed dinner date) are criminally wasted and allowed no opportunity for their comic spontaneity to erupt. Heigl plays Abby Richter, the producer of a failing morning TV show in Sacramento, who is forced to accept the inclusion of ratings-magnet Mike Chadway (Butler) into her morning mix. Mike is hired to bring his cable access show, The Ugly Truth, to greater Sacramento. The show is his forum for pronouncing what he perceives to be the ugly truth about the age-old battle of the sexes (boiled down, essentially, to Men: untamable Tarzans; Women: Janes who need to go native if they want to snare a man). Abby hates his philosophy but seeks his help anyway in snagging the bachelor doctor (Winter) who lives across the way. This leads to shopping trips, lessons in how to sexily devour a hot dog, and some remote-controlled vibrating underpants that are the underpinnings for the movie’s signature set-piece (attempting to rival When Harry Met Sally … for displays of orgasms in public restaurants but falling far short of that mark). Taken as a whole, The Ugly Truth is much like its orgasms: phony and unsatisfying.