“The Ugly Truth”
At Quality 16 and Showcase

Courtesy of Columbia

2.5 out of 5 stars

In an overtly generic romantic comedy, the female protagonist inevitably wins the battle against the stereotypical bawdiness of her male lover, either through manipulation and cunning or with tenderness and passion. This formula, albeit positively received by the female moviegoer, is often an emasculating experience for her male companion. This unfortunate outcome is so often repeated that it debases most romantic films to the dubious label of chick flick. This is not the case in “The Ugly Truth.”

The film follows Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl, “Knocked Up”), a local television producer living in Sacramento whose obsessive-compulsive approach to dating would induce nausea in even the most stoic man alive.

One night, an extraordinary accident leads to Richter engaging in an awkward telephone conversation with the uncouth (to say the least) host of a public access television show. Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler, “300”) espouses his simplistic, sexualized take on love in his show “The Ugly Truth.”

His chauvinism immediately offends Richter’s fragile temperament, and she is horrified the following day when she finds out that the manager of her local television network has invited Chadway to move his show to their network. Chaos ensues as Richter is caught in an inelegant love triangle.

“The Ugly Truth” is filled with glaring flaws. The weak script consigns Heigl’s and Butler’s characters to complete one-dimensionality: Anna’s “humor” involves rambling rants that, however verbally eloquent, amount to little more than an annoying buzz in the ears of the viewer. Mike’s brand of humor is equally contrived, and his chauvinist characteristics almost perfectly parallel those of Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) in the film “Magnolia.” Coincidence? I think not.

Also worth a mention are the poorly devised visuals, which employ the use of backdrops so obviously fake the film looks like it was produced in the 1940s.

But despite the film’s pitfalls, it breaks some of the chick-flick genre’s conventions. Certain expectations must be foregone in an era of filmmaking in which the focal point is the bottom line rather than fresh material. “The Ugly Truth” may not give viewers a script of unadulterated originality, but it still earns a position slightly above the typical romantic comedy.

Though the outcome is altogether predictable, the film manages to offer a fresh, unexpectedly crass viewpoint that rewards viewers with a healthy number of laugh-worthy moments. It’s nice to see a romance that doesn’t entail a bumbling man who’s constantly being outwitted by a member of the “smarter sex.”

More importantly, the film addresses the troubling, cynical outlook on love that has been adopted by contemporary male culture and is all too often overlooked — though it’s a shame that it can’t present the concept in a more thoughtful manner.

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