We know that romantic comedies are fantasy. They're fairy tales wrapped up in wish fulfillment and a dozen hokey Hallmark greetings. So when yet another installment of the genre comes across plodding into theaters, no one is surprised that it's an almost complete fabrication, from the characters down to the meet-cute contrivances. But did The Ugly Truth have to be so obvious about it? Did a wannabe starlet like Katherine Heigl and a talented thesp like Gerard Butler have to buy into every overused cliché imaginable in service of a story that telegraphs its ending before it even gets started. The answer, sadly, is yes.
You see, Abby Ritcher (Heigl) is one crazed control freak. In fact, she's so anal that her local TV producer can't get laid. She has a list of 10 prospective factors that any man she loves must have, and since most of her dates barely manage one or two, she's hopelessly frustrated. When the ratings dip on her morning news program, the boss calls on local cable access clod Mark Chadway (Butler) to save the show. His caveman-like view of male/female relations are so un-PC they cause an immediate reaction. Soon, Mark is a hit and Abby is angry over his chauvinistic ramblings. But when she falls for a dreamy doctor (Eric Winter), her inability to land a date with him has her begging Mark for help. Naturally, the Neanderthal agrees, while hoping to have the last laugh. Article continues below
Wow! Women talking dirty! F-bombs and other sexual bon mots coming from the mouths of supposedly respectable career gals. How new and novel. Taking its cues from the last two years worth of theatrical comedy, The Ugly Truth decides that ill-mannered individuals spewing sass from every orifice is the height of humor. It believes that fake orgasms, office-based sexual harassment, and the wasting of quality supporting talent like Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins (as a pair of married news anchors) will keep audiences readily rolling in the aisle. And for some, this superficial tripe will be more than entertaining. It will provide laughs, surprises, and a heartfelt romantic wrap-up at the end. But for the rest of the mainstream viewership, people who don't believe in unicorns or heartthrob vampires, this is pure R-rated pap.
Since Heigl sits as one of the executive producers of this mess, it's obvious she felt it a good vehicle for her fledgling Sandra Bullock status. But did she have to approve a script which made her character so horrifically unlikable? Aside from natural beauty, we have a hard time figuring out what anyone sees in her, let alone why either of the two leads asked to play potential paramours would instantly find her fetching. Abby clearly has issues that a couple of rolls in the hay just won't cure, and yet Butler's Cro-Magnon Dear Abby is convinced that all she needs is a diddle to set things right. It's therapy via a genital jumpstart.
While no one is expecting subtlety from director Robert Luketic (this is the man who made Legally Blonde, after all), one would hope for some smarter feminist positioning from the trio of ladies credited with the screenplay. Instead, they hold true to every hoary old moviemaking chestnut, from the best friend who lives vicariously through our heroine (in this case, a lustful assistant) to the mandatory music montage that is supposed to suggest the growing bond between guy and gal.
Again, no one is asking the rom-com to be realistic. Nothing would be more insufferable than real people dealing with real problems in a wholly truthful and tell-all manner. But we don't need fallacy on top of phoniness either. The "ugly" truth about this film is that it's all artifice and very little amusement.