At first glance “The Ugly Truth” bears the hallmarks of what usually gets called a “chick flick”: girly poster, Tracy-Hepburn opposites-attract premise, Katherine Heigl.
But note the R rating accompanying this film. It seems a touch of Judd Apatow-style bawdiness has entered the realm of what the French call the “flick du chick” (they don’t really call it that). After all, Heigl did duty in the Apatow-produced “Knocked Up.”
Sure enough, “The Ugly Truth” brings in the raunch. Heigl plays a Sacramento TV producer whose morning news-talk show is nose-diving in the ratings.
Enter Gerard Butler, as a commentator about love and sex. Although (or because) his ideas haven’t evolved much beyond caveman wisdom, he’s an instant rating hit.
Naturally, Heigl is horrified by this Neanderthal brute. So horrified she immediately begins taking advice from him, “Cyrano”-style, about how she can impress her hunky doctor neighbor (Eric Winter).
Now, like me, you may be wondering whether in the end this prissy control freak will actually become attracted to this reincarnation of Attila the Hun. I wouldn’t dream of giving it away.
As to the raunch, it mostly comes from the direction of Butler’s character. The movie can’t seem to decide whether he’s a retrograde manchild or the only person in the room actually telling the truth. Which is actually one of the more interesting things about this slick, well-produced romcom.
Smoothly guided by “Legally Blonde” director Robert Luketic, “The Ugly Truth” works as a vehicle for its stars. Wide-eyed “Grey’s Anatomy” pixie Heigl is mugging it up like mad, but she’s got undeniable comic skills, even if her character doesn’t make much sense.
Butler established his testosterone bona fides in “300,” so he slips easily into the role of chauvinist blowhard. The actor is so genuinely funny and likable that he tips the movie’s scales toward his argument, even though (I think) the film isn’t exactly endorsing his guide to life.
The third act is sloppy, and the film commits a cardinal sin of screwball comedy by failing to create funny, fully-rounded supporting characters. (Good idea casting John Michael Higgins and Cheryl Hines as TV hosts, but we don’t see enough of them.)
“The Ugly Truth” gets one important thing right: It has lots of rapid-fire banter between the leads. Repartee will carry a so-so movie, and this one squeaks by on a stream of words … R-rated and otherwise.