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Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl star in The Ugly Truth.

Saeed Adyani/© 2009 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

1 out of 4 stars


The Ugly Truth

  • Directed by Robert Luketic
  • Written by Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith
  • Starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler
  • Classification: 14A

If Doris Day and Rock Hudson had made jokes about vibrating panties and fellatio at the ballpark, just think how much funnier their romantic comedies would have been. That appears to have been the brainwave behind The Ugly Truth , the latest Katherine Heigl comedy from the director and two-thirds of the writing team of Legally Blonde .

Contrived as a crossover between a female-friendly romantic comedy and a male-targeted, anti-political correctness jab, The Ugly Truth veers between crude and cloying.

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Heigl ( Knocked Up , 27 Dresses ) stars in her third comedy in a similar role, as an overachiever careerist with no time for romance in her life. Here, she plays Abby Richter, a television producer at a Sacramento, Calif., morning show. To boost the show's ratings, her boss hires a sexist local-cable host, Mike Chadaway (Gerard Butler). He's a former salesman who argues that men want lust, not love, and women should learn to accommodate them. On his first day, he solves the marital woes of the show's bickering co-anchors Larry (a very funny John Michael Higgins) and Georgia (Cheryl Hines), by encouraging Larry to assert his inner caveman.

Abby, despite a few years in the news business, is infuriated by this, or at least for two or three scenes, until she makes a deal with Mike: She'll take his advice on how to land her waxworks-handsome doctor neighbour, Colin (Eric Winter). If his advice fails, he agrees to quit the show.

This is the setup for a progressively more improbable series of gags that sees Mike guiding Abby through dates, via an earpiece, like a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac, while she endures various humiliations before she recognizes which man she really wants.

The script for The Ugly Truth was written by three women: Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith ( Legally Blonde , The House Bunny ), and Nicole Eastman. They try desperately to copy Judd Apatow's recipe for romantic raunch but succeed only in reversing his snigger-to-flinch ratio. Certainly the script is not helped by director Robert Lukatic, who directs this like an episode of Two and a Half Men , right down to the nudge-nudge musical cues and flat visual style.

Heigl is obviously not at ease with the physical slapstick the role demands; she puts far too much effort and calculation into her character's every reaction. In spite of the camera's rapt attention to Heigl's blondness, full lips and tight clothes, her performance never really feels like anything more than a series of wardrobe changes and disconnected outbursts.

The best one can say for the performances here is that you can't possibly imagine stars Heigl and Butler are as obnoxious as the characters they play. That's particularly true of Butler, whose shambling puppyish manner belies his character's hostile edge. Long before Mike shows his true romantic colours, his soft side is a foregone conclusion.

The minimum you ask of a romantic comedy is that it leaves you with a mildly pleasant sense that deserving pretty people can find true love.

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Yet, right down to the final scene, with its grating soundtrack and cheap computer-generated imagery, The Ugly Truth feels more ugly than true, and predictable in everything except its level of crassness.

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About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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