Friday, January 15, 2010

The Ugly Truth (2009) review

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: Superb acting by the leads, witty humour, well paced narrative, emotionally engaging characters

The Bad: stale predictable story, other characters other than the leads are bland, unsatisfactory conclusion, failed to expound on the more complex and interesting themes of relationship.

Current Availability Status: On DVDs in all major DVD stores
DVD features:
- deleted scenes
- director's commentary

Over the years, the romance comedy genre have always been within the "hit or miss" region among movies in general. Be it live action or in the form of anime, romantic comedies tend to be mostly mediocre with only a handful that turn out really funny and enjoyable with even less going on to become international hits. Sadly "The Ugly Truth" follows that long line of mediocre romance comedies, its only bright spot being that Gerald "This is Sparta" Butler is given a chance to show off his acting prowess in a fresh new role that he has never tackled before.

THe premise of this movie is as such. Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a perfectionist, "control freak"-ish morning show TV producer whose show is on the verge of being canceled due to low ratings. One night, she comes home from a disastrous date and happens to watch a segment of a TV show, "The Ugly Truth", hosted by "shock jock" by Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler). Abby calls into his show and argues with Mike on-air, in response to cynical attitude about relationships prompts, which leads to her quite literally "hating his guts". The next day, she discovers that the station she works for has hired Mike to do a segment on her show in order to boost ratings. This kicks starts a very storm tossed relationship between the two which lends itself to numerous comedic turns. Sooner than expected, Abby just so happens to fall for her doctor neighbor and she grudgingly goes to Mike for advice at "netting" the man of her dreams(actually the only man who fulfilled her listed criteria). The unlikely pair cut a deal in that if she is She agrees to his advice and is successful, it would prove Mike's theories on relationships and she will work happily with him. However if Mike fails, he agrees to quit.

Anyone with experience in this genre of movies can more or less fill in the rest of the story. Unlikely pair work together, more jokes, fall for each other, more jokes, Love triangle develops, tragedy strikes, touching finale. Finish.

In this case, one would admit that the usual formula actually works to a certain extent. Familiarity allows the audience to know exactly what they are watching. They would know exactly how the story would turn out and hence lessen the chances that an audience would go away disappointed since whoever does not like this genre of movies would not even be watching this in the first place. "The Ugly Truth" is not a masterpiece by any means, nor would it win any awards, but it is entertainment. Also the formulaic story allows one to focus more on the scripting and acting, and this is where the movie truly shines.

Witty banter and a cornucopia of innuendo-ed jokes permeate most of the film. Sexual references abound but are written in such a tactful way that they do not come off as crass or crude. Most sexual innuendo jokes tend to be rude and sometimes offensive; thankfully that is not the case here.There is wit to the humor in this movie that utilities word puns and double meanings in their jokes to good effect. Thankfully, the humor is not over-played as the tone transits from its lighthearted first act into its more serious second act. The characters and situations are written in such a way that anyone could easily identify with them, which lends to a greater emotional involvement in the film.

Stellar acting by the cast also helps. Special mention goes to Gerald Butler who proves to be an exceedingly versatile actor. He nails the carefree, in-your-face, yet internally bitter character of Mike Chadway to the point that it is easy to forget the actor playing the role and just become so involved with character himself. Katherine Heigl does a satisfying job as Abby, lending both her acting chops and eye candy to the complex lead role.

It is a huge pity that the writers chose to fall back on "the usual thing" instead of expanding on the relationship themes a little more . Having a clearer conflict of ideals between Mike and Abby and maybe going deeper into the strengths and flaws of the ideas presented would have turned this film into a more thought provoking experience. "what men really want" , "what women really look for", "loving the 'me you want to see' or loving 'the real me'", all those little tidbits would have made benefited from a more central role in the film which would have given this movie a "fresher" feel instead of the stale standard story.

At the end of the day, unless you are already a fan of romantic comedies or unless you have an open mind when it comes to various movie genre, its best to stick with what you like. "The Ugly Truth" would not be converting staunch action movie junkies or epic fantasy aficionados anytime soon, that's for sure, but just sit back relax and enjoy a good laugh that is easy on the brain. A hearty chuckle and a few quick tugs at the heartstrings now and then is good for body, mind and soul.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you enjoy a good laugh, if you want to see Gerald Butler in a role he has never done before, and if you already know what to expect from a typical romance comedy
Avoid it: if you seek something better than "typical"

Entertainment: B-
Story: D
Acting: A
Characters: B
Music: C-
Replay value: C
"Brains": C-

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