Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Ugly Truth' is a thoroughly average romantic comedy

“The Ugly Truth,” the new romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Gerald Butler, is thoroughly average. It isn’t an awful experience and it is pleasant enough, but it certainly doesn’t fill one with the desire to tell people, “Oh, you’ve got to see this one.”

The romantic comedy by its nature is formulaic, so it isn’t fair to throw that criticism at entries in the genre. Opposites meet and bicker at first, but slowly grow to like each other and eventually fall in love.

In a way, the predictability of the romantic comedy is part of its appeal. It is comforting that love always prevails. As is true with any story, even if the outcome is known, it is the journey to reach that conclusion that makes it a story worth telling.

The better romantic comedies mask their formula with fresh characters and sharp dialogue. “The Ugly Truth” has no original characters and limited supply of memorable dialogue.

The premise here is Abby (Heigl, “27 Dresses”), an uptight producer of a TV morning show, is saddled with Mike (Butler, “300”), a new guest commentator who claims to speak the truth about men and women. Mike is a chauvinist that oozes testosterone and Abby finds his point of view on women degrading.

In their early scenes together, Heigl and Butler have some nice barbed exchanges and it seems like the film will be a biting look at the way men and women see love. Instead the film has Abby cave very quickly and basically accept Mike’s view point as he coaches her on how to win over a cute doctor that has moved into her apartment complex.

There’s a lot of vulgar dialogue in the film. It is clear that the film is trying to emulate the appeal of the Judd Apatow produced films. For the most part the use of profanities is supposed to be funny unto itself. Very few jokes are actually written. If you giggle when someone says a naughty word then you’ll find much of the film’s dialogue hilarious.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some genuinely funny scenes. Abby bringing a printout of an online profile and background check on a date is good for a quick laugh as is her rant about how tap water is the same as bottled water. Heigl gets the film’s biggest laugh in a scene that recalls a certain scene from “When Harry Met Sally.”

Things move along well enough, but the film just never quite builds much energy or has anything to say. Romantic comedies don’t need to be profoundly deep, but “The Ugly Truth” stays in the kiddie pool.

The script views gender in the most basic and board stereotypes ultimately concluding that deep down all men only care about sex and want a woman that will never question or criticize them, which is unfortunate since all women are really controlling, judgmental harpies. This is certainly ugly, but not necessarily the truth.

It’s the appeal of the two leads that holds attention. They are likeable together. Butler, who is known more as an action guy, showcases an assured ability to deliver a comedic line. Heigl is cute, perhaps not the highest praise, but it is the word that fits. She does an adorable little happy dance.

As far as a date movie goes, you can do far worse. There are some smiles and laughs, but nothing special. It is safe to say you could wait for DVD on this one. If for some reason it becomes necessary for you to see it in theaters, make sure it is a matinee.

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