Judge Clark Douglas couldn't understand why he tasted like bacon until he was told that all men are pigs.
The battle of the sexes is on.
"You have to be two people. The saint and the sinner. The librarian and the stripper."
Facts of the Case
Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up) is the producer of a Sacramento network television morning show. The show's ratings have been flagging lately, so the head of the network decides some new talent needs to be brought in. Enter Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler, 300), host of a new segment called "The Ugly Truth." To say that Abby and Mike clash is a considerable understatement. Abby is repulsed by Mike's sexism, but his controversial segment brings the show the best ratings it's had in years. Slowly but surely, Abby begins to fall for Mike's earthy charms, particularly when his dating advice proves to be exceptionally successful. Meanwhile, Mike is also falling in love with Abby…surprising, considering that he claims men never actually fall in love.
The primary problem with The Ugly Truth is that there isn't any truth to be found, ugly or otherwise. So much of the film is rooted in fiction and delusion that I'm half-convinced the movie takes place in some sort of alternate universe. The characters are not real humans, the supposedly terrific advice would not work in the real world, and the plot seems to have been cobbled together from bits and pieces of sub-par sitcoms.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: there are two people, a man and a woman, who are complete opposites. The woman is totally uptight and conservative while the man is a charming, carefree playboy. They absolutely hate each other at first, but as time goes by they start to like each other. Just when it seems like their relationship is becoming something special, some sort of complication breaks them apart again. However, just before the film ends, both parties realize just how foolish and ridiculous they've been being, that they were meant for each other all along, that they've learned some lessons from each other and that they will live happily ever after. Sound familiar? It's only the plot of every other romantic comedy ever made, and it's on full display in The Ugly Truth despite the unimpressive, Apatow-esque façade of foul language and remarkably frank sexual dialogue.
Much of the film takes place within the confines of a television news studio. As someone who's been in a television news studio, I can tell you that a studio like the one seen in this film most assuredly does not exist. Actually, never mind that. As someone who lives on planet Earth, I can tell you that this studio is completely bogus. Just about every single person on staff is some sort of zany stereotype, and the local news anchors are a husband (John Michael Higgins, Still Waiting) and wife (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm) who bicker about their sex life during the commercial breaks. When a newscast starts going disastrously wrong, the news crew does not frantically attempt to fix things or cut to commercial. Rather, they sit back and cackle about the absurdities they are witnessing onscreen. This newsroom apparently exists in a world that doesn't contain the FCC (or any sort of sexual harassment laws, for that matter).
The film's attempts at humor come in two categories: crass shocks and preposterously contrived scenarios. The former earns the film its R-rating, but it lacks the inventive freshness of the similarly crude material found in, say, The 40-Year-Old Virgin ("How often do you flick your bean?" Butler asks Heigl). However, it's the latter that makes the movie particularly groan-worthy. Consider a sequence where Abby is going out on a date with a guy named Colin while receiving advice from Mike via an earpiece. Mike tells her what to say, and she says it. It all goes well until someone spills a drink on Mike and he starts swearing. Sure enough, Abby starts inexplicably swearing at her date. That's not as bad as the vibrating panties scene, though. Yes, you heard me. Abby receives a pair of vibrating panties (!) as a gift, which she wears to a corporate dinner (!!). The remote control to the panties falls out of Abby's purse, a kid finds it, and…well, you can imagine. Also, for what it's worth, the finale of the film involves hot air balloons.
Heigl and Butler are both capable actors, but they're not particularly interesting in this film. There are clearly moments when they strain to hit some measure of honesty, but the script forces them towards extremes. Heigl in particular just doesn't seem to be buying a lot of what her character does, and if she can't buy it how can we be expected to? The supporting cast is a disappointment across the board, as the other players are either boring (Bree Turner, Eric Winter) or underused (Higgins, Hines). As a side note, I'm pretty sure that John Michael Higgins' character is named "Larry" just so we can hear Cheryl Hines say things like, "Larry, what is wrong with you?" over and over again (if you don't think this is a wonderful thing, then you clearly haven't seen Curb Your Enthusiasm…but when that's the high point, you know your film is in trouble). Even a Craig Ferguson cameo fails to amuse.
The hi-def transfer is excellent throughout. The visuals are those of a typical romantic comedy, which is to say that the image is warm, pleasant and rather ordinary. While the movie might not offer anything that will wow hi-def enabled viewers, everything looks about as good as it can under the circumstances. Background detail is strong, blacks are rich and inky, and flesh tones look warmly accurate throughout. The most visually impressive scenes are probably those in the television studio, as the somewhat cluttered set and bustling atmosphere gives the viewer plenty to look at. The sound is also just fine, though only on one or two occasions does it actually rear its head and make a big impression (loud pop songs are featured in both instances). However, it's very clean and well-distributed, even though I find the cloying Aaron Zigman score to be a little bit grating at times.
The supplements are a little light, but perfectly adequate nonetheless. The package kicks off with a scene-specific audio commentary with director Robert Luketic and producer Gary Lucchesi, which tends to focus on technical details and is generally pretty dull. Moving on to the featurettes, we have the unintentionally amusing "The Art of Laughter: A Making of Hilarious Proportions" (16 minutes), which explains to us why the movie is as funny as it is. "The Truth is Ugly: Capturing the Male and Female Point of View" (13 minutes) is a dull piece in which cast and crew members offer generalizations about men and women. You also get some deleted scenes, a pair of alternate endings, a gag reel and a digital copy.
Though not quite an absolute bottom-of-the-barrel romantic comedy (compare this to the similarly plotted films The Accidental Husband and My Best Friend's Girl), The Ugly Truth proves unoriginal and unsatisfying. For what it's worth, the Blu-ray release looks and sounds good.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Scene Commentary
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.