The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth | rated R | starring Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Cheryl Hines | directed by Robert Luketic | 1:34 mins

A TV anchor woman’s (Katherine Heigl) romantic life is turned upside down by the station’s recent hire of a chauvanistic relationship adviseman (Gerard Butler) for a segment called “The Ugly Truth”. When the expert takes an interest in her love life his advise that men are just sex-obsessed pigs who want women to debase themselves for them comes in direct conflict with her romantic view of the world.

What we are seeing in The Ugly Truth is two actors who seem allergic to credible success finally coming together on one supremely awful film. Having glimpsed success (Butler with 300, Heigl with Knocked Up) the two decided to turn around and hit the Self Destruct button, bashing to smitherins once promising careers. Their weapon of choice: the romantic comedy. A genre in desperate need of creative recussitation now weilded like a sledgehammer to humiliate actors, give hack directors work and hatefully pander to the audience’s lowest common denominator impulses. If that sounds hostile, it’s because The Ugly Truth is a hostile movie.

Moreso because I desperately wish there was a movie that took to task the ugly truth about the relationships between men and women and the phoniness of romanticising love. The Ugly Truth is not it. It’s soft, shallow and gutless. It’s “insight” is little more than to tell us men like breasts, jello-wresting and women who don’t talk all the time. It makes no sense that the network would allow Butler’s Mike on the air to hijack the news (for the all-purpose McGuffin of “ratings”), and it makes even less sense that the guy would be a success given that all of his epically staged relationship monologues are nothing we haven’t heard in every square inch of the male-bashing culture for the last 20 years. It’s about as relevant as The Man Show.

On the other side of the gender isle, it tries to say that women think with their brains (unlike what men think with) then allows Heigl’s character to be a complete moron in the name of sacrificing her dignity to get a guy. All of the comic heavy lifting is left to Heigl, who – while beautiful – isn’t nearly up to it yet.

The movie’s ideas make no sense from minute to minute, as if written by being passed through a committee, each person adding their few pages without reading anything else that came before it. Mike’s ideas are that men are simple and then makes Abby jump through elaborate hoops to get one. Women think with their brains, but every woman except Abby in the film is read to jump Mike’s bones because he’s attractive. Then in the end, Truth, abruptly comes to the same ending that every romantic comedy in history has with all the pre-planning of a rear-end collision. It is absolutely out of nowhere. Apparently these two opposites are in love. When did this happen? Where? Why? Shut up and swoon at the beautiful people.

You can take this exact premise and put it in the hands of some people with talent and turn it inside out, dissecting the way a news program would debase itself for a Network-style satire or a bitter, meaty look at the male/female games via an early Neil LaBute movie. Nope, not here. Ugly Truth, wants to reaffirm every woman’s secret belief that all men are caveman who just climbed out of the primordial ooze and to stick with jerks because there isn’t anything else out there for her.

Aside from the false love story ending, the biggest problem with The Ugly Truth is not that it’s a mean, vulgar movie stampeeding into sacred romantic comedy territory. It’s that it isn’t mean enough and smart enough to back it up.

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