Friday, July 24, 2009

Movie Review: The Ugly Truth

Get it? The heart is on his penis where his brain is located! Men are so dumb.

Written by women, presumably for women, The Ugly Truth is a wannabe clever raunchy rom-com brimming with chick flick clichés and cringe-worthy predictability. Tumbling ratings force Abby (Katherine Heigl), an uptight and romantically idealistic control-freak local morning show producer, to work with Mike (Gerard Butler), a chauvinistic cable access host proclaiming to speak the truth about what men really want, however revolting or "ugly" the truth may be. From first meeting, it’s clear she hates him. But, for some reason Abby and Mike make a bet – if he can’t fix her ailing love life, he’ll quit the show. She wins either way, right? But the expected soon happens when he begins falling for her. Sexually explicit barbs and gags, the staple of the recent breed of “R” rated comedies revived by directors like Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips, fall flat in this trite movie that equally insults and trivializes both teams in the heterosexual dating game.

Robert Luketic can’t seem to reproduce the charm of one of his past films, Legally Blonde. With the main character fixated on her list of desirable qualities in a potential mate and not much else except her work life, Abbey is by far more shallow than the materialistic but snarky, Elle in Legally Blonde. She even does background check on a blind date, played by Kevin Connolly (insert Ari Gold's latest jab about E's height here). She’s single; she has a cat and lots of self-help books on the shelf. Heigl’s performance is not the problem here, though it certainly isn't flattering, the problem is the broad and sickeningly simple script filled with an exhausting amount of everything wrong with movies intended primarily for the ladies. In The Ugly Truth you will find the following very familiar bits: 1. The Makeover, 2. The Cyrano, 3. The Thrust Together on a Business Trip, 4. Sexy Latin Dancing for No Good Reason, and of course the biggie, 5. The Taming of the Shrew (and by shrew I mean the “B” word”). And, I’m sure I missed a few. Very early on, the focus of my laughter switched from the punch lines to the film itself. Later, the laughter turned to audible groans for which I apologize to the elderly women next to me that seemed to be enjoying the many penis jokes, some of which were pretty funny.

The Ugly Truth’s
few triumphs are its excellent supporting cast, including Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins as quippy spousal co-anchors. Hines and Higgins riff of each other seamlessly, delivering quirky and fresh banter that is missing from the majority of the film. Nick Searcy as the TV station’s director also does a respectable job bringing some Absurdist one-liners. But, these three are not enough to make up for the rest of the movie, especially the brainless and contrived restaurant orgasm scene. No, it’s nothing like Meg Ryan’s hilarious and plot-propelling performance in When Harry Met Sally. It involves vibrating underwear, a misplaced remote and an unknowing kid at the next table. Ewww.

It's simple: when prude women climax in public it's funny, when you do, sir, it's criminal.

Butler and Heigl have chemistry and their performances make The Ugly Truth almost enjoyable for the first 15 minutes or so. Most women for whom this film is intended would happily watch Butler read a magazine for at least 15min if he was wearing the right shirt (myself included). But, the film is so small and focused on one tired premise (she hates him…or does she?) it gives no depth to any of the characters who are adrift in a sea of clichés and raunchy jokes lacking any heart. Nothing rings true in The Ugly Truth, and the ending, which takes place in a hot air balloon (isn’t that romantic and comedic?!) seems thrown together and sloppy. Oh and the music choices are also distractingly terrible, each one cheesier and more surface than the next. From the sets to the quick pacing that steamrolls over vital opportunities for real story, The Ugly Truth feels cheap, awkwardly concocted and sincerely unsatisfying.

The Ugly Truth opens Friday only 97mins? 

Dir.: Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton - which I've watched 3 times on TV and I can't tell you why, Monster In-Law and the awful, awful 21)  
Wri.: Nicole Eastman and Karen McCullah Lutz & Kristen Smith (10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde, The House Bunny)  
Starring: Gerard Butler,  Katherine Heigl  
Rated: R for sexy stuff and language - none of which is really that dirty.