Rated R for sexual content and language, 97 minutes
"The Ugly Truth": not such a pretty (or funny) attempt at romantic comedy
There's no denying that Katherine Heigl of the hit TV show "Grey's Anatomy" and Gerard Butler, the rugged star of "300," are attractive and charming. Too bad the same can't be said of their profane new romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth." To be brutally honest, "The Ugly Truth" is tasteless, predictable, misogynistic and an unfortunate waste of talent. Sure, Heigl and Butler are nice eye candy and there are some reflex, crowd-pleasing laughs, but this largely forgettable, shallow star vehicle plays like a modern "Pygmalion" with lots of profanity and sexual innuendo.
Abby Richter (Heigl) is a successful yet romantically challenged TV morning show produce whose search for Mr. Perfect has left her hopelessy single. Uptight and controlling, she runs a tight ship but her TV show is struggling in the ratings. Abby's in for a rude awakening when her bosses team her with Mike Chadway (Butler), a hardcore TV personality who promises to spill the ugly truth on what makes men and women tick, not to mention huge ratings for the station. When Abby has a promising suitor, a hunky doctor named Colin (Eric Winter), she hopes this will be the one, until Mike steps in to help and all sorts of unexpected things happen.
You won't buy a minute of this stale, unreal and predictable tripe that Hollywood throws upon audiences every few months or so, calling it "romantic comedy." The set up in "The Ugly Truth" can be seen coming from the first frame. Two polar opposites who initially hate each other then grow to like each other then fall in love. This formula has been done before many times before and much better since the Hepburn-Tracy era.
What's truly remarkable about "The Ugly Truth" is that it intends to reveal some romantic notions by supposedly uncovering how men and women think. It would help if director Robert Luketic (responsible for last year's hit "21" but also for the dreadful "Monster-in-Law") helmed with an original touch, or if the script - ironically written by two women - wasn't so one-dimensional or misogynistic. Heigl plays a "strong, intelligent" character but then she lets Butler attempt to "shape" her (ala "My Fair Lady") into the woman that men really want, an idea that's so blatantly false and unrealistic. No matter how hard they try, Butler and Heigl are not Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.
That's not to say that "The Ugly Truth" has some fun moments or that Heigl and Butler aren't nice to look at. Heigl in particular (who interestingly enough, gets a co-producer credit on this) is a game comic actress and displaying some decent timing (fun scenes: falling out of a tree, vibrating underwear) when she isn't annoyingly whining. Butler's character is so shallow, offensive and one-dimensional (and worst of all, with no real attempts to change him) that it's striking this pair would even consider each other romantically.
The most fun in "The Ugly Truth" comes from a few wacky supporting players. John Michael Higgins (a Christopher Guest mockumentary player and seen currently on DirecTV commercials) and Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), play a married TV couple who really need the relationship advice and have some humorous, entertaining on-air exchanges. Nick Searcy, another familiar comic face, memorably and energetically plays Heigl's exasperated and ratings-hungry boss determined to keep the show going at all costs.
Shallow isn't necessarily a bad thing, really. That's what makes the first part of "The Ugly Truth" mildly enjoyable, even fun at times. Then it falls apart in its last act when it shifts from shallow to serious and attempts to make the audience believe that these two would fall for each other, when when we knew that was coming within the first few minutes of the film. Heigl and Butler are appealing, talented actors who are better than "The Ugly Truth," a forgettable, otherwise not-so-pretty attempt at romantic comedy.