Movie Title: The Ugly Truth (2009)
Can you imagine what the world would be like without romance movies or romance novels? Why, it would be just the same. The only difference would be that we’d be free of – more often than not – pathetic portrayals of non-life-like romances. In short, we’d be better off without these relationship lie-makers. Sure, we’d be without a handful of great romance movies, and it would suck not knowing what we were missing in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and 40 Year-Old Virgin, but we could live. I’d take that.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have little tolerance for romance flicks—funny or not. The director’s got his work cut out for him who tries to win me over with one. Sleepless in Seattle didn’t do it. The nod-worthy Last Chance Harvey almost nailed it, but The Ugly Truth is only a notch-and-a-half above Ben and J.Lo’s trifling 2003 disaster Gigli. So, no, this one isn’t going to make the cut.
Ever since 2006’s 300, who would have thought that Gerard “King Leonidas” Butler would be giving misogynistic advice on TV in the movies? Not I, friends. But here he is as Mike Chadway, a late night relationship answer man who has his own version of The Man Show. Like Dave Attell, Chadway is classy enough to buy a woman vibrating panties and then use them to bring her to orgasm while in front of her work associates, and he talks about female masturbation in terms like “flicking the bean.” I honestly think the writers stole that term from me.
But I’m not envious. There’s not much to be envious of in The Ugly Truth, which is all about how you have to know what makes the opposite sex tick in order to get some action. Women are such game-players, and guys like Chadway understand the game. They have that special gift, which comes in handy when you need to cut to the chase and do what will get you laid. But as you might have expected, the film isn’t really about that. It’s about how, when you get tired of having meaningless sex and being someone you clearly are not, just relax. Quit running from true love because true love will find you. No need to look for it.
Even if you believe that scheisse, it’s not telling anyone anything. And that, Dear Reader, is the problem with romantic comedies—darn near everything they have to say has been said before. That men don’t want to talk (after sex or otherwise) and that some women crave rudeness and an attitude in a man is not new material. It might survive a standup comedy routine in a nightclub for amateur comedians. Such a routine will impress me only if Chris Roc delivers it, but short of that, it’s going to fall into that gluttonously growing category of “Heard it before.”
The by now blown out candle flame that powers The Ugly Truth is, of course, shock value. A lot of young and early middle-aged guys want to hear a smart, dirty-mouthed game-player talk up his routine and show how much he knows about women. At the same time, a lot of women want to laugh along with their men, poking them in the ribs when they see them smile in delight at the screen. And then the women get to see true love come in for the kill.
Mike is absolutely right about one thing: the stuff that women put in their online dating profiles (“long walks at the beach,” “candlelit dinners,” “hiking,” “horseback riding,” and “a guy that makes me laugh,” etc.) is total donkey crap! There…I said it. I feel so much better.
On no other point is the movie quite as satisfying. But the characters are surprisingly well defined, and the plot – though predictable – makes room for what would be a believable one. Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a television network producer whose search for “Mr. Right” has gone horribly wrong (A woman dissatisfied in her search for a man? Go on!) She has a failing love life and she’s a control freak. She blows a fuse when, to boost ratings, her network decides to bring Chadway onto their morning show lineup to present “The Ugly Truth” about men and women. Let the formulaic anti-feminism jokes begin!
The plot was salvageable…right up until the 8-ton elephant of bad writing steps into the room and crushes the conference table. Every ounce of humor brought before you is raunchy in nature and as dirty as the lint stuck in Chadway’s bachelor-kept belly button. You’ve seen it before. Everything from apparent blowjobs on the big screen at ball games to women wrestling in jelly, to a man’s pants getting yanked off in a moment of clumsiness…it’s been done before. If it were a product, you could buy it at Kmart.
The Ugly Truth tries to convey passion, but the script doubles as the films own death certificate. The unbelievable antics that no television network would allow are the signature on that certificate. A sexually frustrated news reporter couple being “set free” to explore their passions on the air, cursing on live TV because Chadway is just tooooo much to handle…
Grade: D+ (1 ½ stars)
Summation: A producer with a bad dating track record is infuriated when a misogynistic TV personality is brought onto her network
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Katherine Heigl “Abby Richter,” Gerard Butler “Mike Chadway,” Bree Turner “Joy,” Eric Winter “Colin,” Nick Searcy “Stuart,” Jesse D. Goins “Cliff,” Cheryl Hines “Georgia,” John Michael Higgins “Larry,” Noah Matthews “Jonah,” Bonnie Somerville “Elizabeth”
Genre: Comedy / Romance