Posted by: znewkirk | July 31, 2009

Review: The Ugly Truth

2009 | Director: Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde,” “21”) | Writers: a bunch of them

No matter its imbecilic plot—successful TV news producer Abby (Katherine Heigl) agrees to let disgusting pig Mike (Gerard Butler), her popular game-theory segment host, take control of her pathetic love life to land the handsome doctor of her dreams—“The Ugly Truth” really boils down to the basic tenets of rom-com catechism: Uptight (man/woman) meets laid-back (woman/man), and through the stupidest of circumstances they are thrown into close proximity, resulting in mutual annoyance, followed by mutual hate, and, to complete the cycle in the most unlikely manner possible, ending in purest love. It’s nothing new, nothing funny, and I wish I hadn’t watched it.

The face Butler wears in this shot of Heigl yammering is the same expression I had all movie, except I was asleep

The face Butler wears in this shot of Heigl yammering is the same expression I had all movie, except I was asleep

Perhaps my intense dislike of this film has more to do with the presence of Heigl, the maddeningly-popular star of “27 Dresses,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Knocked Up,” than my ambivalence toward romantic comedies in general; after all, I’ve digested billions of rom-coms and tolerated roughly half of them, but I’ve hated Heigl, in all her Tina Fey-like condescension and unwarranted self-importance, in exactly 100 percent of the films she’s been in. Maybe it’s because a typical scene of Heigl dialogue goes like this:

BIT CHARACTER: Excuse me, Ma’am, but I need you to sign for this package.

(Heigl removes her pince-nez and glares at the serf, affronted)

HEIGL: I shall do no such thing, blaggard!

(Heigl steps regally into her zeppelin, which takes her to the moon for high tea with Lady Chatterley and the Monopoly man.)

The target audience of "The Ugly Truth." I mean Serena Williams; not women. Serena Williams is the target audience.

The target audience of "The Ugly Truth." I mean Serena Williams; not women. Serena Williams is the target audience.

Or maybe the intensity of Heigl-ism is greater in “Ugly” because opposite her looms Butler (King Leonidas of “300” fame), a normally-agreeable Scottish actor whose questionable comedic talents are obscured further by the intrusion of a harsh American accent—a characterization achieved, apparently, by stuffing his cheeks full of Slim Jims. Thus the “rough-edged jerk vs. stuck-up lady” interplay is heightened, but at the expense of any believability whatsoever. If you were a classy dame who hated everyone beneath you, would you really want to roll in the sack with a slovenly man-whore with Orson Welles jowls? I wouldn’t, but that’s me.

She didn't like it.

She didn't like it.

However, believability shouldn’t ever come up as an issue in a rom-com as long as a handful of decent jokes make their way from the script to the screen. Unfortunately for “Ugly” (and even more so for me, who sat through it) the screenplay is slightly less funny than watching a bus full of orphans drive into an open volcano. It could be that all three of the movie’s writers suffered personal tragedies during their somber collaboration, but that’s no excuse for director Robert Luketic, who could have spiced up the proceedings with some Benny Hill music and a food fight or two, at least.

Rating: One of Five Stars



  1. Oh, Zach, I am so glad you could articulate reasons why to hate this movie. I went to see it for sheer escapism after a week of bad news, and left depressed about the state of mankind (which includes women, of course). This movie was so coarse! So unbelievable! So demeaning! Worse still, Heigl was on a talk show where she explained that she AND HER MOTHER produced it, and they were glad they were able to get an R rating so they could REALLY show what the “dating” scene was like. Especially, she said, to use the language and topics that real people discuss in relationships.This movie made “He’s So Not Into You” look like Enchanted, Part Two.

  2. I was thinking about seeing this movie because I like Gerard Butler, but didn’t because I don’t like Katherine Hiegle, so glad I didn’t waste my time.
    I also hated He’s Just Not That Into You.

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