Movie Review for The Ugly Truth

Plenty of Ugly, Little Truth

The Ugly Truth

Comedy, Romance | R-13 | 1 hr 35 min
Columbia Pictures
It is generally wise to avoid relationship advice, and generally wiser to steer clear of something akin to a relationship philosophy. Anyone or anything that would tell you that there is a singular way to deal with the complexities of human emotion is for one, presumptuous, and two, most likely wrong. And so, one enters The Ugly Truth with a measure of trepidation, it being a romantic comedy based around the very idea that all the interactions between men and women can indeed be reduced to a simplistic formula, all the while pretending that the people involved in said formula are actually worth caring about.

Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is the hardworking producer of a struggling morning news show in Sacramento. Abby focuses so much on her work that she doesn’t have much time left for relationships, and what time she does spend dating is often undermined by her general uptightness. Enter Mike Chadway, the host of a small public access TV show called “The Ugly Truth,” which operates on the thesis that all men want only one thing, and that women should lower their standards and settle for that. The station manager has hired Mike to be a new correspondent on the show, much to Abby’s dismay. Abby tries to get rid of Mike, but he proves to be popular. Things take a turn when Mike offers Abby some advice regarding a neighbor she’s been eyeing.

The movie appears to be some kind of attempt at combining the syrupy elements of romantic comedies with the crass gross out humor of more male-oriented fare. The result is disastrous, each element undermining the effect of the other, the characters thrown in two different directions and unable to form any sort of humanistic core. Between having to adhere to the relationship formula and throwing in ridiculously broad slapstick sex-oriented routines, there isn’t really any time to get to know the primary couple, or to care about them. There are moments in the film that, taken alone, might have worked romantically. But taken with the rest of the film, it all feels forced and half-baked, the relationship as patently artificial as the nouveau-boor philosophies spouted by the leading man. Robert Luketic, who directed Legally Blonde, brings the same sheen to this movie, bathing the characters in a warm, goopy light that places them squarely in a fantasy world where only gorgeous people exist. To his credit, it all looks pretty good, and tight editing makes it all move quickly enough. But it’s lipstick on a pig; no amount of gloss can overcome the vapidity of the content.

Katherine Heigl is an enigma. Years ago, she complained in interviews about the latent sexism present in Knocked Up. But now she does this movie, based entirely on the idea of embracing some measure of sexism as a means of forwarding relationships. Strange decisions aside, Heigl, along with co-star Gerard Butler, are made to yell almost every line. And when they’re not talking, they contort their faces to ridiculous proportions. The two definitely have charm and a lot of talent, but it’s difficult to see that through all the mugging. All the shouting eventually drowns out what little truth they bring to their performances.

And truth is generally what’s missing from The Ugly Truth. It is yet another glossy romantic comedy that barters in artifice, promoting the idea of true love and romance while replacing all the glorious tedium of modern relationships with wacky antics that involve vibrating panties and hanging upside-down from trees. Because in the Hollywood parlance, love may only emerge after a series of embarrassments. Well, it’s an embarrassment, all right. But there’s little love to be found.

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