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Wednesday
Jul222009

The Ugly Truth

One needs only to look at the poster for The Ugly Truth for a good understanding of its comedic quality. It depicts a stick figure male and stick figure female side by side, the female's heart in her head and the male's heart in his penis. Boy, that's fresh. If this tired joke doesn't make you roll your eyes, you might just enjoy The Ugly Truth. I, however, did not.

Katherine Heigl plays Abby, a television producer whose news show is bombing in the ratings, on the verge of cancellation, and in dire need of something different and exciting. After stumbling upon a local cable access program called The Ugly Truth, a program that dishes out the supposed "truth" on women and relationships, her news station brings on its host, Mike, played by Gerard Butler, to hopefully boost their ratings. Despite her initial hatred for him, Abby employs Mike to help her win a date with her sexy neighbor. Love flourishes within her, but not with the person she expected.

Which is to say, this movie is predictable, as most romantic comedies are. For those of you who can't figure out what happens by the end of the film based solely on the trailer, I suppose I'll give you this spoiler warning, so take heed before venturing down this written path, although you'd have to be pretty clueless to not see what is coming from the get-go.

The fundamental problem The Ugly Truth faces is that the characters are unlikable, if not morally reprehensible. During one scene, Mike details how women have a number of steps they feel they must go through to get a man, but he counters, explaining they need only one: "blow job," he says. According to him, to get to a man's heart, you only need to be willing to - through the phrase of a metaphor - take one for the team. This scene doesn't only subordinate women, relegating them down to people who are only useful for one thing, but it also makes all men look like shallow, misogynistic pigs who care only about sexual stimulation.

Mike is a guy who isn't afraid to say what he thinks, regardless of how vile it makes him look. He makes more sexual advancements than James Bond, but the difference is that Bond is smooth, suave, and sophisticated, and his lines always have a tongue-in-cheek type of vibe. Here, they just come off as despicable chauvinistic talk, in a way that makes the viewer feel like when Mike looks at a woman, he sees the backs of their heads rather than their faces. "Guys never care about your problems. When they ask how you are doing, they don't really care," he tells Abby during one scene, explaining that it's only a precursor question in the hopes that they will eventually get you in bed. He embodies the type of man who other men despise, a guy who makes everyone of the male sex look bad and as a guy, I was insulted.

By the end, we find out Mike has another layer to him, a soft spot that explains why he is the way he is: it turns out he went through a string of bad relationships. Well, boo hoo. So has everyone else in the world. His fragile psyche creates a paltry pity party for himself, passing it along to the viewer, expecting us to feel sympathy for him, but it's hard to empathize with a man who talks down to women without even a passing thought. Does this pathetic excuse make Mike a better person? Of course not. It makes him even more opprobrious because it attempts to justify his manist ways.

Don't think you're getting off easy though ladies. The female representation doesn't fare much better. Abby is controlling and vain, with an extensive personality and professional checklist that her ideal man must embody if he hopes to be with her, including such arbitrary philosophies like, "He must be a cat person," and the avaricious demand that he be a doctor, a profession unattainable to even some of the brightest minds. While not condescending to men, as Mike is with women, she essentially belittles herself with such high expectations making her arguably just as shallow.

Although Butler does what he can with his disgusting character, Heigl simply doesn't have the screen presence to carry a movie. She was fine in Knocked Up, but the difference is that the Apatow directed film complimented her, not the other way around. In that movie, she had a great script, an excellent supporting cast, a hilarious male co-star, and the story had lots of heart to it. The Ugly Truth has none of those things and her dull performance is the final nail in the already decomposing coffin.

With all of that said, there really isn't much else to discuss, although I suppose one question is still up in the air and may be a deciding factor for some readers: Is it funny? Truth be told, the film has a few mildly amusing moments interspersed between the hatred, but the problem is that I despised these characters so much that it wasn't so much what they were saying that ruined the jokes, but how they were saying them. On paper, I can see them working and in another movie, I may have been laughing, but my abhorrence for Mike and Abby denied The Ugly Truth the chance to get off the ground.

The ugly truth is that this film sucks.

The Ugly Truth receives 1/5

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