The Ugly Truth – Movie Review

Category: The Ugly Truth Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: July 25, 2009 | Publication: | Author: Marc Eastman
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The Ugly Truth() is the sort of movie that’s going to attract all the romantic comedy buzzwords. It’s formulaic, contrived, predictable, perhaps even stupid. These words will be tossed around rather smugly, as though they did not apply with equal measure to whatever we might list as the best romantic comedies ever. Before words are even on paper, and the writer merely has the thought, “I’ll write a romantic comedy,” the thing is already predictable, formulaic, and most definitely contrived.

You can draw your favorites from whatever era you like, but ultimately you have not outwitted the thing just because you figured out that Watts was going to end up with those earrings. There is actually little room to play with the formula and still retain romantic comedy status, and the fact that such things as Punch-Drunk Love and Sense & Sensibility wind up on Best Romantic Comedies lists, doesn’t quite overcome the reality that actually… they are not.

The ugly truth is that romantic comedies are all these things, including stupid, by definition, and using such words to describe them is really just to abandon the game altogether. Unless of course you use such words to describe all of them, and rate them all poorly (and bravo to you frankly). In the end, to apply such ideas as descriptors is simply to say, “I just don’t like this one, and want to mention negative qualities.” Fair enough, but you haven’t actually said anything. It is a game much like citing the impossibility of time travel or faster-than-light-speed in a science-fiction film.

The Ugly Truth is actually formula number three in the romantic comedy playbook. Abby (Katherine Heigl) produces a morning news show at a television station in Sacramento. She is very “power,” and she’s a control freak. In a general way, she has trouble finding Mr. Right. Mike (Gerard Butler) has a show on cable access which he uses to voice his semi-misogynistic, male chauvinist views. By a twist of fate, Mike ends up with a short spot on Abby’s show, and she naturally hates him. One thing leads to another, and they end up making a bet. The bet is that if Abby follows Mike’s advice exactly, he guarantees that she will land new neighbor hunk Colin (Eric Winter).

At this point, you probably know everything that’s going to happen, including all the little twists and turns. Well, good for you. You may not know that it is decidedly deserving of its R rating (or that Heigl will frequently dance like a buffoon), but insofar as things play out, there isn’t even much point in seeing it. Along with all else in the genre.

There are certainly players that are trying to up the game in one way or another (When Harry Met Sally() stands out. Sleepless in Seattle doesn’t.). But, this is not actually a game of deep motives and finesse. It is a game that simply must be played fairly frequently, and borrows what legitimacy it has directly from the fact of its own necessity. It is a land of first dates and sit-com-esque safety. The romantic comedies must keep rolling out, because the audience is all in them. You can’t ask her out to Star Trek(), because you don’t want to be that guy.

The Ugly Truth is not in the class of films that will live on for years, and have people talking about it. It will certainly not be referenced positively in the future. Like the vast majority of romantic comedies, it is largely forgotten even before it ends.

Nevertheless, it serves its purpose rather well. Formula three is ultimately much ado about woman who falls victim to her own demands that a guy be perfect, and man who barks loudly because he’s actually sensitive enough that he’s been hurt many a time before. The main variable here is that things are turned up to R rating status, work out crudely, and otherwise talk a lot of sex. It’s a version that to a certain extent tries to do the opposite thing those sappy movies do in any given situation, just to see if that spin does anything.

In the end, Heigl and Butler are only average, and so is most everything else. John Michael Higgins and Cheryl Hines steal the show in their supporting roles, but they can’t save anything on their own. Still, I laughed a few times, and wasn’t bored… and I have no fondness for the genre at all. The packed house around me roared and enjoyed themselves thoroughly, and fair play to them… they were all on first dates.

The mistake is, being average at something inherently riddled with faults doesn’t single you out as having those faults. It just makes you average.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5