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5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Ugly Truth, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. There's Nothing About Katherine"
1 stars

I had originally planned to begin this review of the new romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth” with some thoughtful and insightful commentary regarding the ways in which it doesn’t quite measure up to its intended goals. However, to do so would require investing more thought into analyzing it than clearly went into making it, so I have instead chosen to open this review with a bunch of barely humorous answers to the all-important question of “How bad is it?” How bad is it? It is so bad that it was directed by the same guy responsible for the reprehensible likes of “Monster-in-Law” and “21” and it barely lives up to those low standards. It is so bad that the single funniest thing about it, at least at the screening that I attended, is that someone at the theater decided that the trailer for the upcoming Martin Scorsese thriller “Shutter Island” was the perfect thing to run before it. It is so bad that the only reason I didn’t set the hair of the woman sitting next to me on fire in response to her non-stop texting was the fear that doing so might suggest that I actually had some vested interest in what was going on up on the screen. I could go on but unlike this debacle, I know when to stop when I am far, far behind.

Katherine Heigl stars as Abby, a woman who just can’t find herself a fella despite her superficially attractive appearance, a powerful job as the producer of the least-watched daily newscast in the Sacramento viewing area and a rigidly inflexible checklist of attributes that she carries around (literally) on every date she can scrounge up in order to see if they live up to her ridiculously high standards--if he dares to order bottled water instead of tap water, that is a deal-breaker in her mind. (I suspect that her anti-bottle agenda is inspired by the fact that when she eventually reverts to her monstrous stage a la “Species,” she prefers her helpless prey to have as few weapons as possible to defend themselves from her hideous pincers.) Essentially, Abby is annoying, self-centered and tries to find flaws with everyone that she encounters so that she can avoid reflecting on her own deep and all-consuming personal issues--of course, since this is a romantic comedy, this makes her the heroine. Anyway, after another date goes down the tubes thanks to her borderline psychosis and she returns home all sad-faced to a house occupied only by her cat (and yes, there will be a couple of pussy-related jokes, now that you mention it), she turns on the television and happens upon a low-rent cable access call-in show entitled “The Ugly Truth” in which abrasive manly-man host Mike (Gerard Butler)--imagine a cross between a pale imitation of the Tom Cruise character from “Magnolia” and 50% of the beer commercials that have aired in the last few years--offers up his views of male-female relationships. In a shocking development, he avows that there is no such thing as romance, that men are only interested in women for sex and that any woman who doesn’t recognize this is either a lesbian or is destined to die alone. In another shocking development, Abby thinks he is disgusting and even calls the show to tell him just how repugnant he is. In the most shocking development of all, Abby shows up at work the next day to discover that her boss has hired Mike to provide his coarse and offensive commentary on her program in a move that immediately makes it the talk of the greater Sacramento area, much to her disgust.

At the same time, hunky doctor Colin (Eric Winter) moves in next door to Abby and after a first meeting that finds her dangling from a tree and him just dangling (if you know what I mean), she discovers that he is pretty much the living embodiment of her checklist of desirable attributes. Of course, she is already on the way towards blowing it with him when Mike steps in and offers to help her land the guy by insisting that she follow all of his advice on how to attract the opposite sex. Since she can’t stand anything about Mike and what he stands for, the strong and highly principled Abby immediately caves in and agrees to follow his tutelage--most of which seems to involve doing obscene-looking things with hot dogs--and before you can say “unlikely plot contrivance,” Abby has landed herself a fella. Speaking of unlikely plot contrivances, it turns out that Mike may not be that bad of a guy after all (he has a young nephew that he dotes upon whenever the screenplay requires a semi-tender note) and may be developing some genuine feelings for Abby himself. Of course, complications soon arise--the obstacles here include the continued presence of Colin, a job offer for Mike from a bigger station and, perhaps inevitably, Colin Ferguson--to ruin things just before they can get started. Will they finally come to their sense and wind up together again? Will they remain true to their natures and wind up lonely and bitter souls? Will there be anyone left in the theater to discover the answers to these questions or will they take the same path that the people sitting next to Ted Striker did in “Airplane!” once he started with the war stories?

Although applying logical thought to something as unremittingly stupid as “The Ugly Truth” is always a dangerous prospect, my guess is that it was initially conceived to serve as a romantic comedy that would use cynical humor as a way to explode the clichés of the genre and to give viewers something fresh and new. If that was indeed the case, something got lost in the translation because this is such a formulaic take on the genre that it makes “The Proposal” look wildly daring and ambitious by comparison. If you doubt me, I would like to submit a partial list of things that are seen in this film that have only ever appeared in other romantic comedies and which have never actually occurred in real life.

1. Someone going out on a date wearing an earpiece while having a friend trailing behind them with a microphone that they use to transmit suggestions as to what to say or do--inevitably, the person with the microphone will say something silly or vulgar and the person with the earpiece will unthinkingly repeat it and then struggle to figure out a way of explaining it that doesn’t make them seem insane.

2. A young boy worrying about whether a certain girl is going to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance at school.

2A. Sadie Hawkins dances.

3. The unexpected arrival of the boyfriend, who has traveled hundreds of miles for no other reason that to interrupt a potential assignation between his beloved and the guy that she really cares about that causes them to split up so that they can get back together again in the finale.

4. Several scenes in which live television broadcasts are interrupted by foul language or unexpected developments and instead of immediately cutting away to anything else so as to avoid broadcasting material that could inspire trouble from the F.C.C., the person in charge says something along the lines of “No, let’s stay with this and see what happens.”

5. Making plans for a romantic getaway to Lake Tahoe.

Instead of coming up with a unique viewpoint or, barring that, some fresh gags, the film instead has made the questionable decision to go the foul-mouthed and raunchy route but do so in such a half-assed manner that you wonder why they even bothered. There is just enough dirty-minded humor on display here to ensure that much of the target audience will be offended at the sight of Heigl being caught doing something seemingly risqué on a ballpark Jumbotron screen or the sound of her saying “cock” approximately seventeen times in a row. On the other hand, there isn’t enough of the smutty stuff to serve as a game-changer in the way that it did a decade earlier with “There’s Something About Mary” and what there is of it isn’t nearly inventive or irreverent enough to warrant notice. For example, there is one scene that is essentially a rip-off of the justly famous sequence of Meg Ryan faking an orgasm in “When Harry Met Sally” and while that particular scene was pretty much a textbook example of creating a classic bit of comedy, the version here is an object lesson on how not to create such a thing--it goes on far too long, it is overplayed to the point that it never rings true and the only genuine emotion that it generates is embarrassment for Katherine Heigl for being forced to go through with it in the name of “comedy.” Consider the fact that Ms. Heigl, the former star of such masterpieces as “Bride of Chucky,” “Under Siege 2” and “Valentine,” has been publicly critical of some of her past projects--most notably “Knocked Up” and “Grey’s Anatomy”--for not supplying her with material worthy of the person who had the clear artistic vision to sign up for the likes of “27 Dresses” and the immortal “Zyzzyx Road,” I immediately went home after the screening to go online and look up the names of the producers that she would presumably be throwing under the nearest vehicular conveyance for supplying her with such lame and insulting material. In what turns out to be the third funniest thing about “The Ugly Truth” (the second being an ostensibly serious line suggesting that Desmond Tutu had once been a guest on the news show), it turns out that among the numerous listed producers are. . .uh, Heigl and her mother.

Unfortunately, the smut quotient of “The Ugly Truth” isn’t enough to distract from an even bigger problem--the fact that it is a romantic comedy featuring two of the least likable characters to appear in the genre in recent memory played by two of the least interesting actors to appear in the genre in recent memory. To put it bluntly, both Abby and Mike are vain, self-absorbed morons with nary a shred of charm or personality between them--by the end of the movie, you are rooting for the two of them to get together only because their foul union would presumably prevent other innocent souls from being sucked into their respective vortexes of pain and tedium. (To make matters worse, they don’t even have wacky best pals to distract us from their vile natures with bits of comedy relief, apparently proving that there are some things that Judy Geer won’t do after all.) As for the actors themselves, Heigl is cold and aloof throughout, not the qualities that you normally find in the ostensibly sympathetic female lead in a romantic comedy, while Butler once again proves to be such a complete bore on the screen that he may as well be the male Jennifer Aniston--after all, neither one has ever demonstrated any genuine big-screen charisma and their nipples appear to be their most expressive physical feature. When their characters are meant to be at odds with each other, their lack of visible chemistry is bad enough but when they begin to lower their defenses, they are so off-putting that it veers into anti-chemistry. You know how some on-screen couples are described as being sizzling or steaming up the scream or some other vague cooking reference? In this case, the on-screen pairing of Heigl and Butler is like tossing a bunch of utility-grade meat into a crock pot, waiting around all day for things to start cooking and only belatedly discovering that you forgot to plug the damn thing in.

Perhaps because there was nothing else for it to latch upon, I found my mind wandering more than usual while watching “The Ugly Truth.” Specifically, I found myself noting all the various references to other, better movies strewn throughout. Some of them are obvious, such as Mike’s resemblance to Tom Cruise in “Magnolia” and the aforementioned “When Harry Met Sally” crib. Some of them are a little more obscure, such as a rant that Abby delivers about Mike that sounds suspiciously like Al Capone’s tirade against Elliot Ness in “The Untouchables.” Some of them, quite frankly, are ones where I was reaching--there is a moment when someone refers to duck cacciatore that made me ask “Why a duck?” and that got me thinking about “The Cocoanuts.” However, the bit of cinematic history that I kept thinking about the most while watching “The Ugly Truth” was the quartet of old Ma & Pa Kettle films that I was recording on TCM at that very moment and which would be waiting for me to watch once I returned home. Not only were those films infinitely smarter and funnier, they provided more genuine insight into the nature of relationships to boot.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17541&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/24/09 00:00:00
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User Comments

1/11/20 Suzanne Offensive and crude 1 stars
11/04/15 David Hollingsworth No comment, because it was just that bad. 1 stars
9/22/11 Nuala Kelly from NI I've not got a wee potata face 1 stars
11/14/09 Duke7734 Some fun...Gerard is great in comedy, too 3 stars
9/02/09 Rhys Hiegel can't act. Take some acting lessons. 1 stars
8/18/09 Luisa Cute chick flick with enough raunchiness 4 stars
8/08/09 Angie It started O.K. but went WAY downhill... 3 stars
8/03/09 Steve Hock Trash, trash, and more Heigl trash! 1 stars
8/01/09 Ming this film has no chemistry...its supid for her to fall for him 2 stars
7/30/09 This movie sucks Yes, it's sexist and retarded. 1 stars
7/29/09 gc No chemistry, lame bathroom humor, rips off when harry met sally too 1 stars
7/24/09 Isaac Lies 2 stars
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  24-Jul-2009 (R)
  DVD: 10-Nov-2009


  DVD: 10-Nov-2009

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