By KATIE B. O’CONNOR
Bad boy, uptight girl. This is the formula for at least half of the romantic comedies that have come out in the past two years. Think of anything Matthew McConaughey has been in recently. The formula exists because it works, as long as it gets tweaked just the tiniest bit every time. And in “The Ugly Truth,” starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, it most certainly is a success.
Butler plays Mike Chadway, a crass television call-in show host who claims to tell the truth about men and love. Hiegl portrays Abby Richter, a repressed morning talk show producer who is forced to hire Mike to increase her ratings. Similar to her role in “Knocked Up,” Heigl’s character is someone who needs an unusual man to turn her thinking around. Mike and Abby’s sexually charged “we’re too different to be lovers, let’s just be friends who hate each other” friendship is the main theme of the film while Mike helps Abby win her hot neighbor, Colin (Eric Winter).
Abby learns what guys “really” want: girls who have long hair, wear sexy underwear, and play hard to get. Um… duh, that’s why salons, Victoria’s Secret, and Dr. Ruth are still in business. But lo and behold! The plucky, neurotic Abby realizes that being a fantasy 24/7 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Butler and Heigl have great chemistry on screen, hurling barbs at each other with perfect timing. After seeing Butler play the kind-hearted, boring good-guy for so long, it’s a nice change to watch him stretch his legs by playing a real bastard (think Hugh Grant playing the slimy Daniel Cleaver in “Bridget Jones’s Diary”). Heigl allows herself to be goofy as the helplessly frazzled Abby, and her comfort in the role really shines in a particularly wonderful scene involving vibrating panties.
Cheryl Hines and John Michael Higgins (a regular in Christopher Guest’s films) are brilliant as Georgia and Larry, the married co-hosts of Abby’s morning talk show. The scene where their marital tension comes to a head, in which Mike coaches Larry on air to be a gorilla and dominate his wife, is the most hilarious scene in the film.
The story may be a bit contrived, but Abby’s revelatory speech near the end of the film is truly touching. Because in the end, you’re going to have more fun being yourself. True, you won’t have hopeful suitors banging down your door, but eventually you will find someone who likes you for exactly who you are.
‘The Ugly Truth’ Screenings:
Thursday: 7 p.m. in the Underground
Friday: 10 p.m. in Combs 139
Saturday: 7 p.m. in Combs 139
Admission is $1.