Abby Ritcher (Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up) is the producer of a fairly successful morning news TV programme, but when ratings begin to drop, and her job gets threatened, she is forced to put up with the overly chauvinistic, shock-jock TV presenter, Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler, P.S. I Love You) getting a regular slot on the show in order to sex-it-up and improve the ratings.
The Ugly Truth is an opposites attract story in every sense of the word, as Abby’s fiercely controlled GMTV style morning programme is nothing like Mike’s original play it by ear, late-night, call-in show (titled The Ugly Truth) where he berates the guests and doses out advice which he assures them will get them laid. She is a totally neurotic control freak that believes in true love and is often disappointed as none of her dates ever live up to her fantasies (or fulfill the necessary criteria on her dating checklist), whilst he is a much more laid back social realist that has attempted to turn dating into a formula, and believes that he knows exactly how to get any pair into bed together as he knows exactly what all men and women want from the opposite sex; a conclusion he reached after several broken relationships.
After the mismatched pair are thrown together by force, a battle of wills ensues as Abby is infuriated by the way that Mike is degrading her show, and Mike loves his illustrious new job and the praise he’s getting for upping the doomed shows ratings. The battle reaches a head when Abby phones a man she’s interested in dating in front of Mike, and he makes a wager that if she follows his instructions exactly, this potential boyfriend will fall head over heels for her, and if he doesn’t, Mike agrees to quit the show.
It’d be no spoiler to say that what follows is a series of events showing the main characters growing closer, as they try to get Abby into a relationship with her attractive neighbour/doctor, and Abby doing things that she wouldn’t have dared try before as she considers them degrading, all whilst Mike slowly begins to develop a major crush on her and spends the majority of the film pining and wishing that he was the attractive neighbour/doctor, and hoping that Abby will realize that he is the man for her.
In terms of story, there isn’t a single thing that’s fresh or original about The Ugly Truth, as it follows a tired old formula and set story structure that has become so easy to predict it can almost be recited word for word before the first viewing. Where it attempts to stand out is with the character of Mike, being a ‘shock-jock’ TV presenter and taking the genre into levels of crudeness that it usually avoids.
Realistically speaking, Mike’s TV show would be extremely tame in modern terms, as there are many presenters and shows out there which are much more crude, vulgar, and macho than The Ugly Truth (Howard Stern for one, and even Friday Night with Jonathan Ross was often more racy), but creating a character as boorish as Howard Stern would probably have alienated the majority of female viewers, whereas the diluted Mike Chadway is infinitely more likeable (easier for the girls to fancy, and someone the lads can relate to and have a laugh with), and ultimately providing an abundance of jokes that are quite crude but just the right side of tasteless; making the film extremely enjoyable for the ladies, and slightly easier for the male viewers to stomach.
There’s plenty of chemistry between Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl, as they both play off each other extremely well and seem to get honestly lost in what the other is saying/doing. Gerard Butler is really the star of this movie as it’s from him that almost all of the jokes (no matter how predictable they may be) originate, and it’s only through the considerable amount of charisma resonating from him that the audience grow to like the character and could ever believe that Heigl’s Abby could ever fall for him. Emotionally there isn’t too much scope for observing Butler’s talents, but in the few scenes that he does need to appear hurt he does so with a charming innocence which is both realistic and endearing.
Likewise for Katherine Heigl there is little scope for emotional acting (unlike her performance in Knocked Up) as her character is always in one of two modes; the often irritated controlling television producer, or the focus of fairly witless and predictable slapstick comedy. Nevertheless she is exactly what the genre calls for, a nice looking and fun feeling actress that can deliver a decent showing and not appear too threatening to the film’s predominantly female audience.