July 23, 2009

The Ugly Truth

Wait a sec...you're not the same guy I kissed
the last time I rode an elevator

Grade: C –

Director: Robert Luketic

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Bree Turner, Eric Winter, Cheryl Hines, and John Michael Higgins

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Opposites attract in The Ugly Truth, and, let’s face it, most Hollywood romantic-comedies nowadays. The difference is that where most genre entries play it cute and safe, this raucous film swings for the Apatow fences, trying to fit a bawdy peg in a starry-eyed hole. The sad result is a cinematic strikeout.

Abby (Katherine Heigl) is a Sacramento TV news producer whose show is routinely bested by cable access programming and Who’s The Boss reruns. She is also chronically single, partly because she’s so controlling she prints talking points for her infrequent dates. Abby is eventually forced to incorporate the outrageous, but popular on-air talents of Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a chauvinistic relationship expert. Before inevitable sparks fly between them, Mike plays Henry Higgins, improving Abby’s love-life by virtue of a not-so-extreme makeover, transforming her from a beautiful control-freak into a beautiful, busty bubble-head with hair extensions.

The ugly truth is that this outlandish, startlingly vulgar battle of the sexes – devoid of discernable chemistry between its two leads – is utterly divorced from the romantic reality it claims to illuminate. The ostensible lesson that true love flows from “just being yourself” is belied by the fact that Abby’s romantic fortunes increase only after she follows Mike’s transformational advice, just as Mike’s neanderthal notions of gender relations are borne out when Abby ultimately chooses the bad boy lout over the handsome, nice guy doctor.

Director Robert Luketic helms this misbegotten twist on Pygmalion that also clumsily pilfers Cyrano de Bergerac, Tom Cruise’s Frank T.J. Mackey from Magnolia, and the Meg Ryan restaurant orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally.

I am reminded more of Heigl’s last film, the similarly-misogynistic 500 Dresses. The dim prospects this latest dismal rom-com portends for her immediate film career are the surest evidence yet that Izzie just might beat her brain cancer.

Neil Morris

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