Monday, January 27, 2014

The Ugly Truth (2009) [R] ***-

Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) produces a morning news/variety program for a Sacramento TV station. Ratings are so low the program is in danger of being canceled. In desperation Abby's boss hires Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) to do a daily segment on male-female relationships called The Ugly Truth. Mike's a cynical chauvinist (some might say he's a misogynist – a woman hater), but he does know what men and women want out of a relationship, and the truth is pretty ugly.

Mike describes men as being incapable of change and growth, responding mostly to visual stimulation and focused on a woman's beauty and sexual characteristics. He describes women as focused on their perfect man, having a mental checklist of his desirable attributes, and rating each candidate against their checklist, using their sexuality to close the deal. As a result, according to Mike, sex is the only thing holding relationships together.

Abby starts off hating Mike, partly because he understands her so completely, and partly because he is sure that her perfect man is just a fantasy. Then Abby meets her neighbor, Colin (Eric Winter), a handsome, intelligent, buff orthopedic surgeon, her perfect man in the flesh. Unfortunately Abby's such a control freak that Mike predicts she'll drive him away. Mike offers her a deal, however: if he helps her win Colin, she must accept him and work with him; and if he fails, then he'll quit. In desperation, Abby accepts Mike's offer, and what follows is a hilarious series of scenes in which Mike coaches Abby on how to hook Colin, reel him in, and then land him.

While the seduction seems to be working perfectly, Abby and Mike are, predictably, beginning to fall in love with one another. Co-written by the creative and prolific writing team of Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (10 Things I Hate About YouLegally Blonde, Ella Enchanted, She's the Man) and directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), The Ugly Truth is loosely based on Edmond Rostand's classic play Cyrano de Bergerac. The film features sharp, witty dialogue liberally mixed with four-letter-words, physical comedy that borders on the slapstick, and some fairly crude, raunchy, shallow sexual humor.

The Ugly Truth is so successful at reducing male-female relationships to sexual stereotypes, that by the end Abby and Mike are little more than caricatures. As a result, the film's attempts to elevate its tone in the final scenes are only partially successful, and we come away with the feeling that, once again, Katherine Heigl's considerable talent has been wasted, as it was in Knocked Up. The one thing the film does have going for it is the undeniable romantic chemistry between Heigl and Butler, so if you are a forgiving fan of either of the stars, and you appreciate films that are highly cynical about male-female relationships, you may enjoy The Ugly Truth. 

Labels: comedy, romance    
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 28/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=37, viewers=60)    

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