'The Ugly Truth' is pretty ordinary

Category: The Ugly Truth Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: July 24, 2009 | Publication: The Times-Picayune | Author: Mike Scott
Publication/Article Link:http://www.nola.com/movies/index.ssf/2009/07/the_ugly_truths_is_pretty_ordi_1.html

The ugly truth about the eager-to-please new battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth" is that Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler are all wrong for each other -- and all wrong for director Robert Luketic's disappointingly ordinary film.

Both are appealing and talented actors -- when they're in separate projects. Put them onscreen together, however, and any chemistry they create fizzles more than crackles.

The movie has its cute moments, and Heigl and Butler deliver some good R-rated laughs along the way, mostly compliments of the shock value of certain anatomical references. What they don't deliver, however, are characters we care about.

By the time the sexual tension predictably ramps up between the two, not only is it hard to get frothed up about it, but it's obvious that both characters would do just fine -- and perhaps be better off -- without each other.

If Luketic really wanted to offer the ugly truth, he would show his incompatible main characters' inevitable breakup six months down the road.

Even considering the mismatched casting (and overlooking the pitiful lighting), things might have worked if Heigl -- who is well on her way to becoming Hollywood's go-to shrew -- and Butler had been given some clever material to work with. Unfortunately, "The Ugly Truth" story line reads like something generated by a Mad-Libs game:

"A crass and plain-spoken (name a male actor) is hired by the (type of business) at which the prudish control freak (female actor) works. After butting heads -- and after sitcom-worthy episodes involving (name a key prop from a hopelessly contrived scenario), a (name another prop) and a (and another) -- they realize they love each other. The end."

In this case, the answers are, in order, Butler, a TV station, Heigl, a swimming pool filled with Jell-O, a Jumbotron and remote-control panties -- but none of those do much to make "The Ugly Truth" worth remembering.

"The Ugly Truth" attempts to capitalize on U.S. audiences' recently renewed appetite for adult comedies (see "Knocked Up" and "The Hangover"), but even that effort strikes a false note. In Heigl's 2007 career-maker "Knocked Up," Seth Rogen could get away with repeated scatological references because it felt so organic; he really seems to be that gleefully coarse. But no matter how much stubble Butler sports, when his "half-wit troglodyte" character in "The Ugly Truth" spouts crudities on his cable-access TV show, it never feels honest.

Rather, it feels like a desperate attempt at edginess -- and desperation is never becoming, whether in real-life romance or in a romantic comedy.

Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl are polar opposites inevitably drawn to each other in the romantic comedy 'The Ugly Truth.'
2 stars, out of 4

Snapshot: A romantic comedy about a crass, plain-spoken TV talk-show host who is paired with a prim, professional producer. First the insults fly, then sparks.

What works: Its boundaries-testing humor will make audiences laugh, sometimes even out loud.

What doesn't: It's pure formula, a string of contrived setups and predictable outcomes.