- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
n the surface, “The Ugly Truth” looks like it was assembled by a random screenplay generator. Take Katherine Heigl’s uptight TV character from “Knocked Up,” pit her against a cynical chauvinist not unlike her foil in “27 Dresses,” then sit back and watch the magic happen. It shouldn’t work on any level, but it does, at least some of the time. And give the filmmakers credit for taking a female-centric rom-com premise that’s tailor-made for a PG-13 rating, and veering straight into R-rated territory. The movie plays dumb far too often – and for no good reason – but they get bonus points for their willingness to play dirty.
Heigl stars as Abby, producer of a lowly Sacramento TV news show (the lowest, in fact), and her boss has come up with a solution to their ratings problem without consulting her: he adds Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a chauvinist loudmouth – and local cable access ratings sensation – to do his dating show “The Ugly Truth,” where he sets women straight on what men really want. Abby is incensed, since she got a healthy dose of Mike’s philosophy the night before when she called in to his show to berate him, only to get put in her place. She makes her feelings clear to Mike, and he strikes a deal with her: if his dating advice does not help her win the affections of her cute neighbor Colin (Eric Winter), he’ll quit. She accepts, and sure enough, Mike’s suggestions work like a charm. And both of them begin to regret it.
This is the kind of movie that gets the small stuff right while getting the big stuff all wrong. The back-and-forth banter between ice princess Abby and smoove operator Mike is lots of fun (though Butler gets all of the best lines, naturally), but when it comes to staging the big physical comedy scenes, the movie’s brains are sucked out of its head. There are about 20 things wrong with the scene where Abby meets Colin (no way in hell he leaves his apartment in a towel), and their subsequent date at the ball park is equally ridiculous (no way in hell that winds up on the Jumbotron). Were these scenes written by the same people that wrote the other, better parts of the movie? And if so, was it done under duress after the studio passed along some “suggestions”? Someone meddled with this movie, that’s for sure.
There is a reason Heigl keeps getting recruited for movies like this. She plays uptight, neurotic and beautiful better than anyone else working today. (She also shows an inordinate amount of cleavage here, for whatever reason.) However, turning her into the female Ben Stiller is a terrible idea. We get that Mike is trying to reprogram Abby, but there is a difference between getting those results by enlightening someone as opposed to humiliating them, but the movie does not see a distinction. We’re supposed to like Mike despite his loutish tendencies (and we do, and props to Gerard Butler’s dialect coach for improving his American accent after he butchered one in “Nim’s Island”), but we’re supposed to like Abby, too. Heigl rises above this character flaw, but just barely. The supporting cast, meanwhile, has no depth, and this includes Eric Winter as the supposed can’t-miss boyfriend Colin.
Katherine Heigl made waves after the release of “Knocked Up,” complaining about how underwritten the female roles in that movie were (and in her defense, she has a point). We suppose this means that we should prepare for another tirade when “The Ugly Truth” finishes its theatrical run, because if the writing in “Knocked Up” bothered her, she must have hated doing the tree scene here. If it’s any consolation, Katherine, it was just as hard for us to watch it.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
This single-DVD release comes with a generous amount of goodies. Director Robert Luketic contributes some scene commentaries (though strangely, not a full audio commentary for the movie), and there are several deleted and extended scenes, the best of which is Abby's disastrous date with Great Gatsby guy (Kevin Connolly). There are two alternate endings, one of which involves, natch, a wedding, and the mandatory gag reel. Lastly there are two featurettes, one on capturing both men and women's points of view on relationships, and the other a general making-of bit showing how much fun they had making the movie. None of it is what one would call essential, but it's entertaining nonetheless.