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Ugly Truth Falls Short on Comedy

Published July 24, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Columbia Pictures
The Ugly Truth PosterThe Ugly Truth
The Ugly Truth is exactly the kind of movie He’s Just Not That Into You was warning you about. Instead of learning to improve your flaws, it says you can just keep acting however you want and magically get what you want. That would be forgettable and forgivable if it were funny, but it’s not that either.

Review: The Ugly Truth

It opens with poppy music with bustling city shots and a busy Abby (Katherine Heigl) managing her way through a TV producer’s job that only exists in Hollywood’s depiction of itself. Look how cute she is handling production snafus and diva talent. It’s even more adorable when she tries to control her dates. Now that’s real. People do have these strict criteria that are really good at keeping them alone, but there’s no insight to it.

Mike (Gerard Butler) is cutting the B.S. His insights into dating are vulgarly insightful and offensively constructive, but he’s really just doing Magnolia light. He actually helps couples. You see a distant couple get close thanks to his advice. He’s not that shocking though. The R rated language is very basic and uncreative.

The actors make both clichés palatable. I mean, you ask a good professional actor to play a high strung wreck and she can do it. It’s a little sad though because you know they’re capable of much better, but the McConaugheys of the world have lowered the bar thusly.

Mike becomes a guest commentator on Abby’s morning show, forcing her to work with someone she hates and worse, with whom she disagrees philosophically. That is such a ridiculous contrivance. It’s not enough just to have two characters fundamentally opposed, there has to be a stupid TV production subplot?

The bickering only shows how easy it is to get a rise out of a woman. Why so defensive? If he’s wrong, he’s just a crackpot. The only reason to be threatened is if he has a legitimate challenge to your ideals. It’s just not cute getting uppity over nothing. So what if he says something you don’t like? He’s performing for the cameras.

Mike actually has some depth. He has manners, thanking his producer for the opportunity he’s getting. He has a home life that gives him some context. He very clearly distinguishes between how to treat a 14-year-old and how to treat a 25-year-old. It seems like it’s just about the performance for him, not the pseudo battle of the sexes.

Abby doesn’t get to be much of a character. She is pretty with it, but she should still know it’s only local news. It’s not that important. Her real problem is that she makes herself so busy, over a job that probably ends at noon, there’s no chance for anyone to get to know her. That’s a lesson that could be valuable to today’s overscheduled youth, but the movie doesn’t go there. She’s just being adorably neurotic for the beats of the plot.

The further subplot of Mike coaching Abby to be a man’s ideal date is ridiculous, and they make a bet just in case there isn’t enough at stake, because there’s nothing at stake. You have to have a job and a deadline and a task and a bet to make a movie, right?

The jokes rely on stupid misunderstandings and behavior no one would accidentally do. The vibrating underwear goes really far to set itself up. She even announces it, plus you’ve seen that gag before. It was never that funny.

It’s just an inept film too. There’s a horrible CGI effect with Heigl’s head on another weather girl’s body. Even the simple effect of faking a hot air balloon doesn’t look right. It’s bad enough these jokes aren’t funny. They aren’t even competent.

There are some observations about relationships and how negative behavior works, despite people thinking they are above games. Instead of finding humor in that, the film resigns itself to being just like everything else.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Columbia Pictures

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