Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The truth about an ugly rom-com starring attractive people
Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler are two fairly attractive people, but neither of them have enough charisma or charm to keep the formulaic engine of The Ugly Truth spinning.
The main downfall of The Ugly Truth is that it is too blindly ambitious. It desperately wants to be a cleverly risque romantic comedy. The writers (shockingly composed of three women) must have aspired to re-invent the romantic comedy genre, but that is impossible when they stay so much within the confines of the predictable pitfalls of the genre. What makes The Ugly Truth so offensive is not because its often raunchy and distasteful humor, but how much it wants to be something more than a crowd-pleasing romantic comedy--and how it fails so miserably.
The Ugly Truth never goes beyond what its audience would expect, assuming that the average moviegoer has seen a conventional romantic comedy before, yet it teases its audience that it is breaking barriers by cracking some perverted one-liners. I've seen junior high boys make cleverer sex jokes than the ones in this script. A good adult romantic comedy understands the usefulness of subtlety. Unfortunately, The Ugly Truth is far from good.
Heigl stars as Abby Richter, a control freak workaholic and producer of a local Sacramento morning news show. Ratings are down, so the show hires Mike Chadway (Butler), a misogynist creep who hosts a show called "The Ugly Truth," much to Abby's dismay. Mike is a relationship expert who passes sexist comments as relationship advice. But no matter how insanely offensive Mike is, the ratings for Abby's news show are increasing. People like to watch the outrageous unfold.
Although Abby disapproves of Mike's superficial outlook on love (and of course, lust), Abby seeks Mike's help to snag her the perfect man (Eric Winter).
I have to admit that the film does have a clever set-up that could have worked as a decent television satire, but the writers try so hard to be vulgar and outrageous, like Mike's show, that it's difficult to care about the more human side to the characters. It's a classic battle of the sexes scenario, but boy, has Hollywood seen better days.
The film has an annoyingly perky supporting cast that aren't even worth mentioning because of the unfortunate material they have to work with. None of them are very funny, nor does the script allows them to be very funny. The humor the supporting cast is equipped with are so ridiculously stupid that for the writers to expect its audience to laugh is offensive and demeaning.
The "romance" that eventually blooms between Abby and Mike is not only predictable, but it just doesn't work. Abby realizes that Mike is, deep down, a hopeless romantic and a decent man who wants to be a good role model for his teenage nephew. But does that excuse him from being a frustrating jerk and enforcing every over-the-top male stereotype? And Mike realizes that Abby is actually quite endearing and falls in love with her flaws, but unfortunately, that doesn't make Abby more likable to the audience.
There is no question that Heigl aspires to be the next romantic comedy star, but she doesn't have the "it" quality that is so apparent in Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, and Sandra Bullock. Men might like her because she's easy on the eyes, but she doesn't have the instant approachability that women often seek for in leading ladies. Heigl lacks warmth. And for her, comedy seems to be a relatively unnatural reflex.
Gerard, on the other hand, wants to be in romantic comedies as much as Humphrey Bogart did. But the genre just doesn't fit him. He knows how to let loose, but I don't know if that's enough. And the next time he tries to play an American, he should work on his American accent.
I will admit, I laughed once or twice during The Ugly Truth, but I pitied the film's desire to be so outlandishly different, but so unable to break out of any confine. The only reason that anyone should want to watch such a formulaic movie is because they genuinely want to spend 90 minutes with two likable characters, in hopes that they would fall in love in the end. Abby and Mike do not that fit that bill.
You'll be better off watching The Proposal.