Women are from Heart, men are from Penis in The Ugly Truth, one of those romantic comedies that vows to cut through all the usual relationship bullshit while serving it up in heaping spoonfuls. Though tarted up with the R-rated vulgarity of a genre that’s usually PG-13, the film grafts setpieces from popular favorites like When Harry Met Sally… (the orgasm scene) and Roxanne (the balcony scene) onto an opposites-attract scenario about an uptight control freak looking for love and an alpha-male cretin who represents everything she hates about men. Will these two bickering ninnies turn their friction into romantic sparks? Or will she wind up with the abs-sculpting, white-wine-sipping metrosexual orthopedist of her dreams?
With teeth gleaming like a sun-dappled spring, Katherine Heigl stars as the high-strung producer on a low-rated morning news show in Sacramento. Desperate to please their new corporate masters, the station hires man’s man Gerard Butler for a segment called “The Ugly Truth,” in which he dishes out bracingly misogynist relationship advice. Heigl doesn’t initially appreciate Butler’s brazenness, but she eventually turns to him for pointers on how to land the handsome doctor (Eric Winter) who just moved into her building. (Cue a typically labored sequence where Butler feeds her advice via earphone at a baseball game.) But as Butler gets Heigl to loosen up and she knocks the chip off his shoulder… well, to quote the studio executive in Barton Fink: “Whaddya need, a roadmap?!”
Making good on the raunch factor, The Ugly Truth will likely be remembered for an agonizing setpiece in which Heigl wears remote-controlled vibrating panties to a fancy company dinner. Never mind that the filmmakers are hoping audiences will forget about Meg Ryan; just the logistics of the thing (Heigl slipping them on just before her boss unexpectedly shows up to whisk her to dinner, the remote being mistaken for a compact, the dumb kid at the restaurant picking it up after it rolls out of her purse, et al.) require so much exertion that no payoff is worth it. Heigl and Butler have real chemistry together—Butler, in particular, can be charming when he isn’t stalking Hilary Swank from beyond the grave—but The Ugly Truth is the sort of rom-com apparatus that no relationship can overcome.