Just in time for Valentine's Day, the 2009 romantic comedy 'The Ugly Truth' makes its appearance on Region free Blu-ray. To put the minds of the male population at rest, it's not a stereotypical, treacly, sickly sweet confection that could easily be filed under the heading of 'Chick Flick'. Nope, the female population just wouldn't stand for that. Today, they want something a bit raunchier and with a more cynical edge - as long as that cynicism is aimed fairly and squarely at men.
Gone are the days when Rock Hudson and Doris Day would engage in some coy 'Pillow Talk' or when Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey would exchange some smart screwball comedy dialogue in the 'Pat & Mike' movies. Having said that, this is exactly the kind of movie that 'The Ugly Truth' would like to be - but with the language updated to suit the modern young adult audience with the inclusion of expletives, blatant sexual references and physical sex comedy. There's precious little innuendo here, it's all 'up front' so to speak. Now, I'm no prude but I could see how some might be offended by the presentation of the script, although those who have laughed at 'Sex and the City', 'When Harry Met Sally' or even 'There's Something About Mary' will find it amusing enough entertainment.
Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a small town America TV producer whose show has dipped in the ratings to the extent that it faces cancellation. Not only that, Abby is a control freak who hasn't had a long term boyfriend in many a season as her overt efficiency just seems to frighten them off.
Her Station Manager, played by Nick Searcy, decides to bring in some new on screen talent and does so in the form of Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler of '300' fame) - a shock jock in the style of Howard Stern who confronts his women listeners with the often painful 'ugly truth' concerning their relationships. As per the age old formula, Abby & Mike don't hit it off but a truce is called whereby Abby promises to work with Mike and in return he'll advise her on just where she is going wrong with men.
Mike begins his ratings grabbing career by sorting out, on air, the frosty relationship of the middle aged married couple who present the TV show and we see this grow from bitterness to playful reawakening over the course of the film.
I found the personality clash between Mike and Abby quite amusing. Okay, we all know how it's going to end up but there is some fun to be had from watching the somewhat predictable storyline unwind and to see how the series of interludes are superglued together. Abby's amazement at the fact that Mike's advice actually seems to work is worth seeing as she romantically pursues her new neighbour, a good looking Doctor named Colin (Eric Winter), whose towel drops to the ground as he rescues her from a tree.
Probably the funniest scene in the movie is when, following some direct sexual questioning, Mike sends Abby a gift in the form of a pair of remote controlled vibrating undies which she chooses to wear to a restaurant when 'corporate' pay the TV station a visit. As the remote drops out of her handbag and is picked up by an inquisitive little boy, Abby suddenly becomes 'enthusiastic' about her work in front of her bosses.
Another highlight has Mike appearing on Craig Ferguson's American TV chat show where upon he has the tables turned on him with some probing questions that reveal his softer side. This begins to appeal to Abby, sewing the seeds, as it were, who was only sent to accompany him in case a job offer was made by the bigger network.
I couldn't recall having seen Ms Heigl in a movie before but her performance as the 'wound like a top' Abby was very well observed. She was perhaps somewhat too pretty to be believable in the role of someone who is short of a boyfriend, but the cold behaviour of her character explained it away convincingly.
Gerard Butler comes across well as the incisive Mike with enough charm and confidence to overcome the ascerbic behaviour of his character.
Ultimately though, there seemed to be a lack of chemistry between the two leads on screen - leaving a feeling of superficiality to the piece.
This was probably not aided by the desperate attempt to avoid adding saccharin to the picture in the hope of pleasing today's audience.
While 'The Ugly Truth' was entertaining enough to hold my attention for its 96 minutes running time, it was something I felt I could comfortably watch out of the corner of my eye while reading a newspaper. It is undemanding entertainment, a kind of 'chewing gum for the brain' with just enough laughs to keep the story moving along.
It's really a re-telling of the Cyrano de Bergerac story, delivered in a workmanlike manner by director Robert Luketic who also directed 'Legally Blonde'. Sadly however, it proves correct the old moviemaking adage that there's no point getting the camera out of the box if the script isn't right. Perhaps the attempts to make a Romantic Comedy overtly raunchy were just a bit too much 'in yer face' for it to work in completeness.
All the same, it's light and frothy but for the right audience.
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