A romantically challenged morning show producer (Heigl) is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous tests by her chauvinistic correspondent (Butler) to prove his theories on relationships and help her find love. His clever ploys, however, lead to an unexpected result.

A safe, predictable rehash of the conventional rom-com.

There have only been two really great gross-out romantic comedies in the last 15 years that were also big box office success - The Farrelly Brothers’ There’s Something About Mary and Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. The rarity of standout successes would suggest that it isn’t easy to strike the right tone of heart-warming repulsion in comedy. The Ugly Truth is yet more evidence of this.

Australian director Robert Luketic’s latest frothy romp exudes a schizophrenic personality that severely disrupts the flow of his film. A glowing Katherine Heigl stars as a prissy TV producer (Abby), and Gerard Butler is her foul-mouthed chauvinistic on-air talent (Mike); given a moment to engage their characters, Heigl and Butler show a chemistry that is pleasing and warm, but as soon as the clichéd, groaning machinations of the plot need oiling, the film sputters and stutters, leaving the audience groping for anything to believe, much less care about.

Heigl’s character Abby is the films biggest problem. In spite of her success in a field that requires precise people-management skills and social graces, Abby is utterly ineffectual as a functioning adult outside of her television control room (and even there she relinquishes her authority easily).

When Abby finally gets a meet-cute with her hot neighbour, Dr. Colin (Eric Winter), she risks it all by engaging in a bet with Mike that he can help her win over the good doctor – cue the overused rom-com cliché of 'guy feeding girl the lines to impress the other guy’ routine. A business trip that puts Abby and Mike in the same hotel is the final piece in the entirely predictable puzzle of how they learn life lessons and eventually hook-up (if that’s a spoiler for you, then you’ve never seen an average American romantic comedy and you shouldn’ t start with this one).

Katherine Heigl is beautiful and likeable on-screen, but the actress is struggling to find a classy vehicle for herself. The Ugly Truth is a marked improvement on the awful 27 Dresses (2008), but she needs her 'When Harry Met Sally' film soon – that critical and commercial success that will ensure her ongoing appeal. Gerard Butler seems to be having a good time with Mike; the endless barrage of politically-incorrect sexist taunts and innuendoes fall from his mouth with obvious glee.

Though the widescreen photography and warm colour palette of golden hues and bright blues makes Luketic’s film very pretty to look at, The Ugly Truth reeks of a talented director treading all-too-familiar terrain. Gone is the bouncy fun of his calling-card short film Titsiana Booberini (1997). He seems bogged down by the clichés that he approached with a fresh perspective in his breakthrough Hollywood hit, the delightful Legally Blonde (2001). The Ugly Truth lurches towards its kitschy finale like a drunken socialite heading home after a big night out – all dressed up but lacking direction, just happy to stumble somewhere safe.

If all you need is a fix of puerile smut and puddle-deep romantic giggles and can’t wait for the next episode of Two and a Half Men, The Ugly Truth should do the trick. But all involved in its making and every audience member who pays for the privilege deserve much better.


In Cinemas 06 August 2009,