Somewhere, amid an ocean of self-help dating tomes like the ubiquitous "He's Just Not That Into You" and "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," the battle of the sexes rages on. Women think with their hearts, men think with their -- well, you know. And that's the gist of the latest edition in the rom-com canon, the surprisingly snarky and smart "The Ugly Truth."
Abby (Katherine Heigl) is a control-freak TV producer in Sacramento, and because she's a professional woman she wears her hair pulled back tightly (see Sandra Bullock in "The Proposal") and she never, ever goes on dates. Or if she does, they're blind ones set up by her assistant producer, who helpfully prints out a profile, background check and even a set of talking points. She lives alone with her cat, and therefore, she's hopelessly lonely, waiting for the perfect man.
Enter Mike (Scot Gerard Butler as an American playboy), the complete opposite of everything Abby's so carefully plotted on her "dream man checklist." He's crass, he's misogynistic and he's just been hired to shake things up on Abby's floundering daytime variety show. Mike immediately discovers that his new boss is hot but a total dork who also needs serious help in the bedroom.
Abby detests everything Mike stands for, but agrees to let him help her out to snag that perfect man, swoony Dr. Colin, who inspires some very dorky, Elaine-from-"Seinfeld" sort of dancing on Abby's part. Slowly, Abby learns that perhaps her Prince Charming isn't that checklist, but the rogue right in front of her -- can the control-freak woman tame the wild man, and vice versa? Ah, but that's the debate of the ages.
Despite the fact that it swims in a veritable ocean of romantic comedy clichés (girl pretends to be someone she's not to catch a man, ladies' man realizes he has a heart, the clash of the uptight and the laid-back, etc.), "The Ugly Truth" should manage to captivate and charm men and women alike. The dialogue is snappy and sexy, Heigl and Butler spar with zingy chemistry, and though the ending is as predictable as you'd assume, it's a sexy sort of popcorn flick.
This is a romantic comedy for the Cosmopolitan set. A gag on par with Meg Ryan's fake-orgasm tutorial in "When Harry Met Sally" may win Heigl the crown as the new queen of the chick flick, and she deserves it -- she's gonna go there, and go there she definitely does, with panache to spare. Where other rom-com vets such as Ryan tended to veer toward the cuddly and adorable, Heigl plays her heroines with a flinty prettiness, an intelligent-girl spine and a sassy mouth. She has a future in these sorts of movies, and that seems to suit her just fine; you don't see her reaching for the title of serious actress, and that makes her likable.
Butler, of course, is in fine form as a lady-shagging devil with a soft spot or two, and the supporting cast, particularly Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins as the bickering newscasters, increases the laugh factor.
But don't bring Grandma to "The Ugly Truth," because it's a sex comedy through and through, as upfront and honest as advice from your wise-ass best friend. And that's what's so charming about it; neither writers, nor actors, nor director Robert Luketic shy away from the truth about the complicated state of affairs between men and women.