Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ugly of uglies

[A rare bonus review here -- I wrote it for the Telegraph before realising my colleague had already covered it. Feel my horror that I saw this thing for nothing!]

It helps, in a battle of the sexes, when you have a certain sympathy for both sides. “Vive la différence!” cries Spencer Tracy when armistice is agreed in Adam’s Rib, one of the model romantic comedies of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

But who or what are we rooting for in The Ugly Truth? It surely isn’t Katherine Heigl, shaping up as the new Ashley Judd at this point, and harder to like than she’s ever been. It’s not Gerard Butler, whose rugged caveman routine stood him a greater chance of getting some action cruising on the beaches in 300.

Forget that this movie is hollow at the core and appears unacquainted with a human of either gender -- that’s par for the course. It’s worse. It’s been put together with a shiny cynicism that’s almost chilling. It tells us “truths” about male and female mating habits that may have you wanting to seek corrective dating advice from Chris Moyles. It makes The Proposal look like His Girl Friday.

This absolute stinker purports to take place at a TV news station in Sacramento, which doesn’t look much like any TV news station this side of Jupiter. Heigl is the control-freak producer forced to manage her new guest star (Butler), an “übermoron misogynist” who specialises in telling it like it is. Men, you see, are basic. Men want big breasts and lots of blonde hair. Heigl is, of course, single, and scares her dates away. Only after a reluctant makeover involving push-up bras and hair extensions is she any kind of catch.

Rewind for a minute to 2007, when this leading lady famously took a chunk out of her star-making hit Knocked Up, calling it sexist for painting the women as shrews. I see her point, but The Ugly Truth is not the stand I’d have recommended. The swish dinner Heigl attends wearing a pair of remote-controlled vibrating knickers? Not really one in the eye for male chauvinism. Still, if Heigl and Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic were secretly plotting to put you off romcoms for life, they’ve certainly given it some welly. F


NicksFlickPicks said...

A brutal fate, but a delicious pan, and as glad as I was to see Heigl speak her mind about Knocked Up, if only after she had cashed her check (which, enjoyably, lent an equal and opposite cynicism to her position), I am glad to see you nail her for the bankruptcy of her subsequent choices. Who's feeling moralistic now?

The only person I feel inclined to defend here is Ashley Judd, but I say this as someone who didn't have to sit through any of her own generic-lockdown period, and just witnessed the trailers from afar. (Plus, there was no reason to watch them, after Goatdog's brilliant one-word summary of this whole phase of Judd's career: Entrapful.)

tim r said...

That's fair. I'm noting the resemblance and being a little cruel about it. I have some time for Judd as a serious actress (liked her in Bug) and her chilliness really works for her in the kind-of-fascinating Eye of the Beholder.

But what I'm angling in on here is how off-putting she was in Someone Like You, which this closely resembles, and you've got to admit that this could so easily be a still from Entrapful, right?