The ugly truth about "The Ugly Truth" is that this romantic comedy takes two popular actors and a clever, gimmicky idea - a chauvinistic TV commentator and a control-freak producer butt heads until they fall in love - and instantly dives into a shallow, contrived, battle-of-the-sexes tale brimming with obvious, recycled gags bordering on embarrassment.
Katherine Heigl stars as the TV producer, Abby Richter, who nearly freaks out one day when her boss informs her that their ratings-disaster of a Sacramento morning TV show will feature a new, edgy commentator: Mike Chadway.
Mike is played by Scottish superhunk and "300" star Gerard Butler. He's like a cross between Howard Stern and Dr. Phil. He hosts "The Ugly Truth," an in-your-face love program where he gives out relationship advice in crude, blunt language.
Mike is laid-back, crass and absolutely convinced that true love doesn't exist for men. Just lust.
Abby is appalled. She believes in Mr. Right, especially if he can meet all the exacting criteria she has written down for the perfect guy.
Mike and Abby instantly clash, as we might expect. He can't believe she'll ever find the Perfect Guy.
Until she meets her new neighbor, a chiseled, handsome heart surgeon named Colin (Eric Winter). She falls gaga for him. Actually, she falls from a tree branch as she's secretly watching him step out of the shower.
Why? Because in Hollywood movies, tree branches always give way when people secretly spy on members of the opposite sex.
Abby worries she will lose Colin because she's so uptight and controlling.
Mike agrees to help her get her man, but she has to do what he says, no questions. Abby complies, setting up one of the silliest romantic comedy premises to ever simultaneously abuse both "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Pygmalion" in a single script.
The affable Butler rolls with the pulled punches in this flat, obvious movie, directed without much flair or zest by Australian Robert Luketic, whose "Monster-in-Law" set a new low in Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy vehicles.
Heigl, who also serves as an executive producer on "The Ugly Truth," works up a sweat being perky and cute, but doesn't have a grasp on a TV control freak's personality.
Judging by audience reactions at a South Barrington AMC screening, the biggest laughs in "The Ugly Truth" boiled down to three scenes:
1) Abby proves she's not a prude by uttering a vulgarism for the male member a zillion times.
2) Abby tries to wipe a stain off Colin's crotch at a ballgame, and the view from behind, captured by scoreboard TV camera, makes it look like an intimate act between consenting adults.
3) Abby puts on a pair of vibrating panties, then gets whisked off to a business dinner where the remote control - do we really need to be told this? - falls into the wrong hands.
Normally, these might be considered surprise moments, but Columbia Pictures has already released most of this in trailers.
Besides, anyone who remembers Meg Ryan's deli scene in "When Harry Met Sally" has already seen No. 3 done better.
And that is the ugly truth.
"The Ugly Truth"
Rating: Two stars
Starring: Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl, Eric Winter, John Michael Higgins
Directed by: Robert Luketic
Other: A Columbia Pictures release. Rated R (language, nudity, sexual situations). 95 minutes.