Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Film Review: The Ugly Truth


Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a lovelorn TV producer who, despite a long and arduous search for the perfect mate, is hopelessly single. The battle of the sexes heats up when her employers team her up with Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), an opinionated TV celebrity who plans to put Abby through the wringer to prove his own theories about what makes men and women tick.

There's not much about The Ugly Truth that doesn't feel familiar. We've seen this before: neurotic workaholic meets obnoxious neanderthal. She initially hates his guts but eventually warms up to him after he helps her land the man of her dreams (Nick Seacy) or at least what she thinks is the man of her dreams. We get to see episodic sitcom moments along the way before the two finally realize they're meant for each other and end up having hot, steamy sex (dimly-lit and played for laughs, of course) just seconds before the end credits.

In the hands of lesser talents, The Ugly Truth would have been just plain ugly. And in the eyes of the many critics who mercilessly panned it, it is. But for me, the movie works simply because it unapologetically plays to the strengths of its leads. Katherine Heigl has in fact perfected the neurotic workaholic part to a T in Knocked Up and 27 Dresses while Gerard Butler was in fact pretty much a neanderthal in his best known role to date in 300. One could easily argue that they're just mailing it in here.

But until they would later prove otherwise, these are the roles they do best, for better and for worse. There's a good reason why Katherine Heigl gets the roles that used to go to Meg Ryan and would have also gone to Anne Hathaway until she decided to expand her horizons with Rachel Getting Married. And I don't care if others say she's not up to Meg Ryan's standard-setting moment in When Harry Met Sally in a similar scene here. She made it work, she was funny, enough said.

As for Gerard Butler, well, can anyone imagine this guy in a mild-mannered role? My thoughts exactly. If his 300 character King Leonidas lived in modern times and suddenly found himself looking for work, we would most likely find him hosting a cable TV show like The Ugly Truth.

And their chemistry (unlike that of Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan in the just plain awful Laws of Attraction) is actually pretty good. And as romantic chick flicks like this go, chemistry is everything.

As the title of its official website suggests, The Ugly Truth isn't pretty. Well, guilty pleasures aren't supposed to be. But it is a watchable and entertaining yarn, whether you keep your expectations to a minimum or just limit them to what the lead actors are (currently) capable of.

Watch the trailer:

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