Gerard Butler doesn't actually grunt, spit and scratch his bitsies in The Ugly Truth, but he might as well. Playing a sexist he-man of the old order -- Macho Sapiens Neanderthalensis, a type unseen since Burt Reynolds' heyday -- Butler puts on the growl-y line readings and smirking charisma of a man with no patience for the foolishness of dames.
What Women Want matters nothing to this guy. What he wants is plain: skinny bod, perky breasts and two hot babes in a vat of Jell-O. As Mike, a bawdy morning commentator for a Sacramento television station, he crawls in with them to demonstrate live, on-camera, the masculine aversion to candlelit dinners. This is presented as an either/or proposition: gelatinous bimbos over here, serenading violin over there. Not exactly subtle, is it? Then again, The Ugly Truth doesn't waste much time on subtlety, mining its biggest laughs -- and there are several -- from rude, crude verbal combat and a pair of vibrating panties.
Astute film goers will note similarities to previous tales of love and woe, including, in no particular order, He's Just Not That Into You, Cyrano de Bergerac, When Harry Met Sally and The Taming of the Shrew. Directed by Robert Luketic (21) and penned by The House Bunny screenwriters Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz (along with newcomer Nicole Eastman), The Ugly Truth is about as predictable as you'd expect. Meaning: plenty. Mike's producer is Abby (Katherine Heigl), a proud and beautiful control freak who can't land a man to save her life. Mike mocks Abby. Abby loathes Mike. But when some convoluted slapstick causes Abby to drop from a tree beside the naked loin of a hunky neighbor (Eric Winter), Mike offers to coach her through the dating process until the hunk is snared.
If the ploy works, she has to lay off hating on Mike. If it doesn't, he'll quit the show. Soon the game is on, and Mike floods her with advice. Rule One: Never criticize your man. Rule Two: Always laugh at his jokes. Rule Three: Dress for success (select the right bra!). Rule Four: Never, ever talk about your problems.
He offers several more directives, most of them too fixated on primary and secondary sex characteristics to repeat here. Butler barks them out gamely, in a somewhat tortured faux-American accent, and Heigl responds with fine-tuned klutziness and outrage: the Spartan warrior of 300 and the embattled Izzie of Grey's Anatomy throw off some genuine heat.
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