Trying to reinvent the romantic comedy is like trying to reinvent the wheel -- highly ambitious, but nearly impossible to execute. Such is the case with The Ugly Truth, the latest Katherine Heigl vehicle, which falls back on an all too familiar story: Type-A career woman meets crass, rough-around-the-edges man-child, they do the love-hate tango, and in the end realize they're perfect for each other.
In The Ugly Truth, Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a control-freak producer of a morning show who approaches her love life -- or lack thereof -- much like a job interview, complete with background check. She longs for Mr. Perfect, a man who possesses all of the qualities on her infamous ten-point checklist, yet lacks the ability to mask her tightly wound personality long enough to hook him. Faced with dwindling ratings for her Sacramento-based show, Abby is stuck with ratings-booster Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a chauvinistic public-access TV show host whose idea of romance involves two bikini-clad bimbos and a vat of Jell-O. Abby finds Mike's caveman antics abhorrent and Mike finds Abby's prudish demeanor pathetic. Eventually, Abby and Mike make a pact where he promises to help unleash her inner sex goddess and snag Colin (Eric Winter), the bachelor doctor next door, or quit the show if he's unsuccessful. What happens next is the obligatory makeover sequence, complete with shopping spree and hair extensions, followed by a ballgame date at which Mike, like Cyrano, instructs Abby on what to do and say to Colin, with a myriad of comedic results. Later, a late-night romp at a salsa club and an elevator smooch-fest lead Mike and Abby to fall for each other, but who will Abby choose?
The film explores the truth of who comes out on top in a battle-of-the-sexes scenario, but by the end it's clear that the real truth lies somewhere in the middle. Though writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith of Legally Blonde fame (along with newcomer Nicole Eastman) inject enough raunchy humor into The Ugly Truth to keep it from tilting too far into snooze-worthy territory, they fail to give the romantic duo depth. Even the supporting cast members, who are entirely underused, seem like caricatures. Still, there are moments in the film that make it entertaining; one, in particular, involves Abby wearing vibrating undies to a corporate dinner party, with the outcome being something reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally, but not as iconic. These moments are few and far between, though, and the rest is easily forgettable.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, people who want to see this movie aren't looking for something original. There's a certain familiarity that makes the romantic comedy a perennial favorite among audiences. We buy into the fantasy. The audience knows when to laugh, when to cry, when to swoon, and when to cheer, and by the end they're comforted by the unwavering notion that the leading lady always gets her Mr. Perfect.