Screenwriters: Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Bree Turner, Eric Winter, Nick Searcy, Cheryl Hines, John Michael Higgins
Running time: 96 mins
From the outset it's clear that The Ugly Truth is not so much a romcom as it is a battle of the sexes, but sadly it still plays out in the same formulaic fashion evidenced by crude jokes, sexual innuendos and a slew of predictable set pieces. Rewind two years and Katherine Heigl (famous for her starring role in Grey's Anatomy) was being widely tipped to usurp Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts et al. as the all-American female star who appeals to everyone. A stellar turn in Judd Apatow's pregnancy hit Knocked Up, followed by wedding comedy 27 Dresses proved that she could more than hold her own on the big screen, but teamed with man's man Gerard Butler, best known for macho roles in 300 and RocknRolla, can she still deliver?
Abby Richter (Heigl) is a Bridget Jones-esque television producer desperately looking for the perfect man but hindered by her complete inabliity to lose control or compromise on her ten-point checklist for potential suitors. But that soon changes (of course) after she accidentally tunes into boisterous chatshow 'The Ugly Truth', hosted by the ultimate bachelor Mike Chadway (Butler). He believes that men are simple creatures that are incapable of change and only have eyes for attractive women. His advice for unlucky-in-love singletons? "Get on the stairmaster!" Naturally appalled by his archaic thinking, it's about to get a whole lot worse for poor Abby when her bosses decide to hire Mike in a last-ditch attempt to boost the ratings on her flailing breakfast show. Cue a predictable clash of personalities and a string of sexist jokes as our sparring heroes battle for supremacy in the workplace.
The movie starts on a high note as we experience Abby's version of a good first date, involving a thorough online background check and a handy list of conversation topics, as she gleefully tells her victim that he satisfies nine of her all-important criteria. Unfortunately, proceedings soon descend into less romance, more crudeness as the writers snatch every conceivable opportunity to make a sex-related gag. We're treated to twins wrestling in jelly, fornicating monkeys, Abby hanging from a tree in her underwear, masturbation jokes aplenty and even a pair of vibrating underwear, which of course our clueless heroine decides to don during an important business meeting. What follows is an all-too familiar scene (When Harry Met Sally anyone?) which sees Abby's corporate powwow reaching new levels of excitement. Although kudos to Heigl for still making the sequence watchable.
Heigl, as always, manages to effortlessly combine sex appeal with likeability, while Butler demonstrates the ability to make even the most chauvinistic and dislikeable man appear charming, as he takes it upon himself to help Abby land the man of her dreams Colin (Winter), and school her in the rules of attraction (i.e. don't criticise him, laugh at all his jokes and always look good). Some of the film's biggest laughs come from his tried-and-tested (albeit incredibly sexist) makeover technique and his radio-controlled coaching of her first date. His hard-as-nails exterior is also softened by a brief glimpse at his home life and his sweet mentor-like relationship with his nephew. Sadly, this promising storyline is quickly abandoned and the movie fails to really show him changing his ways or explain the real reason behind his macho front, meaning Mike more often than not comes across as a very one-dimensional character who plays second fiddle to Heigl's more dominant Abby.
On the surface, The Ugly Truth has all the ingredients of a sexy comedy - likeable stars, glamorous jobs, spatterings of innuendos and the ubiquitous sizzling dance scene - but somehow the whole thing fails to gel together and we're left with a somewhat lacklustre and often unfulfilling outing. There's no denying that Heigl and Butler do the best with what they're given - and husband and wife anchor team Georgia (Hines) and Larry (Higgins) provide welcome comic relief - but in the end, this fails to achieve anything special or spectacular and what we're left with is a rather run-of-the-mill, albeit more raunchy and definitely enjoyable, tale of opposites attracting.
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