THIS IS CHICK FLICK!
Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com
Director: Robert Luketic
Notable Cast: Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Eric Winter
Several years ago, casting Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl in a romantic comedy made by a studio would be considered inspired casting. But after 300 and Knocked Up established both as movie stars, they both entered the same realm that Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Anniston fall into: pretty faces who make for the same tripe that has made the romantic comedy the least inspiring genre as of late. And for all the raunchy bits that are inspired, The Ugly Truth falls into formulaic shtick that ruins the vibe it had developed in the first act.
Abby Richter (Heigl) is a morning show producer who is rather unlucky in love through her own personality quirks. When her morning show is threatened with cancellation, a desperate network brings in her worst nightmare: Mike Chadway. A vulgar and outlandish boor of a man, Chadway manages to raise the show’s ratings while raising Richter’s blood pressure with his blunt assessment of women and dating. When the potential man of her dreams (Eric Winter) comes into her life, and Mike bets his job with her in landing him as a potential mate, the two discover that love doesn’t always work out like how you plan it.
The romantic comedy is the last bastion of Hollywood story-telling ability in that it takes a special story teller to make it interesting. The genre itself has been done, and done badly, to the point where the ability to make a film that can fall into the genre’s conventions while being entertaining is perhaps the biggest test of it all. It’s a test most fail and The Ugly Truth fails because it feels the urge to go with the happy ending so much that the film veers towards it. The natural, organic flow of the film would dictate otherwise and it feels artificial. And most of the good will comes from Butler.
Given the more eccentric character, Butler gets to let loose as Mike is one of the more fun characters in recent memory for a romantic comedy. His opening rant as part of his cable access talk show is classic and filled with several repeatable one liners. There’s a zealousness he has with the crass things he says early, and often, that makes the film that much more enjoyable. Butler is a man possessed on the screen, channeling his leading man good looks with the crass nature of a character from a better movie. He’s wonderful to watch and Butler shows a crafty comedic persona to go with the effective dramatic one he’s honed over the past several years.
For her part Heigl is given a lot less to work with but manages to make it work effectively. Her character in any other hands would be much more of an unlikable shrew and it is mainly due to Heigl adding little touches to the character. It takes talent to take a character who should be likeable and make us want to root for her to succeed in the end and that’s mainly because the script, while concluding in such a painfully bad manner, takes the time to do something most rom-com scripts don’t: respect its main characters.
The film respects Mike and Abby in that it doesn’t make one or the other change into completely different people, or do things that are mostly out of character. Any rom-com script has to have its two leads be together at the end, but most end up disrespecting or drastically changing one (or both) characters to the point where it rings hollow. The two have a playful banter and are both still the same people at the end. The central point to their interactions is that love is about being you and not becoming someone else for the sake of another. It would follow that being with someone who accepts you for who you are and it’s nice to see that the film’s conclusion at least keeps that part of it.
The Ugly Truth has many quotable moments, which is a bonus, but ultimately doesn’t quite cross the boundary from clichéd genre flick to special genre flick that it could. It’s disappointing. It’s entertaining and worth seeing, but doesn’t quite reach the status as the raunchy R-rated romantic comedy for adults that it could’ve.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl