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.
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.)
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.
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