THE UGLY TRUTH
*** (out of 5)
July 24, 2009
Katherine Heigl as ABBY
Gerard Butler as MIKE
Bree Turner as JOY
Eric Winter as COLIN
Cheryl Hines as GEORGIA
John Michael Higgins as LARRY
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Robert Luketic
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“The Ugly Truth” is possibly the most conflicting movie I have seen all summer. That’s neither an endorsement or a condemnation. It’s just a matter of fact.
On one hand, “The Ugly Truth” is a rather straightforward romantic comedy. Katherine Heigl plays Abby, a stuffy, control-freak television producer in Sacramento. When her show faces cancellation, the local public access celebrity chauvinist Mike (Gerard Butler) is brought in to spice things up. Abby and Mike are quickly at odds, not just with their professional styles, but with their ideas about relationships and the opposite sex.
Soon, Abby takes a fancy to her good looking surgeon neighbor, and Mike steps in to help her land a man. Mike coaches Abby on how to manipulate the opposite sex, but he never planned on falling in love with her.
While “The Ugly Truth” fits your typical romantic comedy formula, and thus is going to be a pretty solid date movie for the weekend, it also carries an R rating. That’s not to say that R-rated comedies are bad, or that R-rated chick flicks don’t work (after all, did you see the box office reports from “Sex and the City”?). However, even though there is some pretty blue humor in the film, it’s nowhere near a raunchy sex comedy like “The Hangover,” “Superbad” or Heigl’s breakthrough role in “Knocked Up.”
The conflict for me also comes in the cast. In spite of her newly aligned teeth (which do look quite lovely, by the way), Katherine Heigl has never been my favorite. Ever since “Grey’s Anatomy” inflated her ego to the tipping point, she has gotten way too big for her britches. Not in a literal sense, though, as she almost looks too thin in this film.
Still, Heigl may be able to handle the drama on prime-time television, but she’s an uncomfortable pawn as the slapstick lead. She has her moments, but so many of her lines seem forced or amateurish. She just doesn’t click in the role, and her delivery sounds like an actor in a Kevin Smith film who just can’t deliver Kevin Smith dialogue.
Contrast Gerard Butler to Heigl. Granted, Butler plays a version of himself in the film, using his good looks and charm to soften the delivery of some seriously caustic lines. But the man has a iron grip to this delivery, and he brings the entire movie to life.
Left to her own devices, Heigl drowns in the role, but Butler always steps in with a life preserver of comedic timing and saves most of the scenes. I can’t say that I didn’t laugh at the Katherine Heigl moments, but I laughed out loud – and a lot – to the tune of Gerard Butler.
Like so many comedies I’ve seen over the years, “The Ugly Truth” also has a strong supporting cast, at times overshadowing the leads. While no one upstages Butler, Heigl is, and it is at the hands of folks like Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins.
Another conflict I found in this film is how honest I can be about it. To a certain degree, this will fill the niche of the chick flick in the theaters, and it can serve as a date movie. The movie does lose its steam at the end, though, when it tries to play out in the typical formula, pandering to its audience a little to much. And that audience is in denial. Even with a name like “The Ugly Truth,” there’s a lot of women out there (and quite a few men) who think many parts of it will be a bed of lies.
The reality is that every word, every line uttered by the character of Mike is an absolute truth. Women won’t want to believe this about their husbands and boyfriends, and this is going to take some fancy footwork by the guys on dates to leave the theater in a sound relationship. But the ugly truth is that all the ugly truths in this film are indeed ugly truths, not just outrageous material for the sake of comedy.
If you can accept this, “The Ugly Truth” can make a fine first-date movie. If not, it will probably be a last-date movie.