25 July 2009

The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth
starring Katherine Heigel, Gerard Butler, Cheryl Hines, John Michael Higgins
written by Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, Nicole Eastman
directed by Robert Luketic
release: 24 July 2009
Lakeshore Entertainment, 96 mins., Rated R

Pretty Frakkin' Good

I'm pretty freakin' surprised I liked The Ugly Truth. Not gonna lie - not exactly top of my list, but in a weekend where G-Force was the only other option aside from seeing Half-Blood Prince for the fourth time, I opted with inevitably bad romantic comedy with a snobby lead actress and King Leonidas himself. Of course it's not the most brilliant bucket in the romantico comedy arena, but it sure beats the hell out of 2008's Maid of Honor (sorry, but the sting of that movie's suckiness will haunt my romance moving watching for years to come), and is a tad better than this summer's The Proposal, at least in the laugh department and one other extremely important factor. Oh, and it's fun, which is rather a tad important.

Show producer Abby (Heigel) is getting her ass handed to her by declining ratings for a morning talk show, and in an attempt to get a rise and the station back in the heat of the ratings battle, the company hires tell-it-like-it-is relationship correspondent Mike Chadway (Butler). Basically going off on tangents about what's wrong in relationships, why the frak men and women do what they do, etc., etc., and being rather coarse about it, Mike gets the ratings the channel company so desires, and becomes their prime pin-up man. Abby doesn't like the git too much, finding him rude and repulsive, but the two agree to work together and Mike even helps Abby try to overcome her control freak tendencies and get a guy, but little would they expect there's a spark between the two of them...

Somehow, someway, there's chemistry between Heigel and Butler, and again, somehow, someway, I believed this story and I believed how these feelings developed and eventually became what it did, something The Proposal didn't so much succeed at (sorry, it's a bad habbit referencing prior romantic comedy releases; can't help it, must contain, apologies). These are two people who are polar opposites, and why should they really like each other is sorta the central question for any type of movie like this. To my absolute delight - so much so I even had a smile at me face, Mike's response to Abby's why-do-you-love-me? inquisitorial: "Beats the shit out of me." (maybe not the exact words, but forgive me - my memory is currently housing orgasmic fits about Torchwood and Battlestar Galactica) Sorry for potentially ruining it for the folks who were actually gonna give this old beauty a try - which I do recommend.

Much like the repeatedly compared to When Harry Met Sally, these two characters don't much like each other at film's beginning, but by the middle they gain some sort of respect for their respective jobs and form some sort of bond. It works. Although Butler's Mike sometimes comes off as too much of a jerk to actually like the guy, let alone understand why a television company would keep a foul mouthed, rude, sexist semi-prick employed and actually revel in the negative comments (mixed in with the positive ones, of course) from watchers beats me, there's moments where I can't help but absolutely dig the guy. Finding out about his sister and her kid, and the occasional cracks of his cold, hard demeanor by late night host Craig Ferguson, it's actually quite interesting and DOES add a little extra layer to the guy. Bottom line is that Butler is entirely charismatic, and his high-horse tendencies as the Mike character can be overlooked because he simply draws you in.

Abby is a workaholic, an absolute neat freak, and needs to be in control of everything and everyone. She just has a lot of ticks. Suffice it to say, sex and relationships haven't exactly been on the schedule, and if they have been, they didn't so much work out. Begrudgingly, she looks to Mike for help, and he does so, as long as they agree to put their differences aside and work together. I gotta hand it to Katherine Heigel, who I don't especially like, she plays strong female roles extremely well, and I quite like that. Heigel is surprisingly likable as a lead, as she was nothing but obnoxious for me in Knocked Up and 27 Dresses, but here she kinda just seems to want to have fun, and makes her character a bit more interesting to watch. It's great watching Abby trying to hide her little ticks and be something of a normal girlfriend (if there be such a thing), and the crazy shennanigans that result from it.

And of course, the absolute top priority of any romantic story is that the gradual development of the relationship and the eventual hook-up comes off as realistic or at least potentially logical. Surprisingly, this movie did that, too. It's one of those stories where they start off as frenemies, then morph into friends, but then there's those damn little moments that hint at underlying feelings. So when the moment actually happens (I'm sorry, was that a spoiler?), I was happy with it, satisfied even. It works. Although I don't exactly appreciate the contrived crux that's absolutely mandatory in Romantic Comedy Screening 101 school, the resolution's quite amusing and fun to watch unfold.

As far as jokes go, I gotta say that I laughed a lot, maybe even more than the much-raved about The Hangover earlier this summer. Yeah, I know: blasphemy. Anywhoot, I actually loved the restaurant scene, also strongly compared to When Harry Met Sally (must everything relate back to that?), which I found funnier in this one than that. Heigel's expressions are dead on perfect, Butler's enjoyment from it brilliant - it's all just good fun. But getting most of the laughs are off-the-air couple Larry (Higgins) and Georgia (Hines), who on-air discuss their non-existant sex life and get advice from Mike on how to spice things up and for Larry to "be a man!"

The jokes are funny, the chemistry is present, and I enjoyed my time, and that's basically why The Ugly Truth might actually be worth a person's time. And, with the use of multiple sex jokes and dissing of female tendencies, it's actually quite accessible to guys, so they might find themselves enjoying the flick they've been forced to see by the girlfriend/wife/significant other.

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