Reviews of The Ugly Truth and Deadgirl
The Ugly Truth
Directed by Robert Luketic
Starring Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Bree Turner, Cheryl Hines
Sexual chemistry is a funny thing. Some screen couples have it in spades—think Tracy & Hepburn, Allen & Keaton and Lathan & Diggs—while others resemble awkward teenagers slow-dancing a foot apart at the junior-high prom. As the pair of impossibly attractive mismatched lovers at the center of The Ugly Truth, Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler do generate some occasional sparks, but can’t get a strong enough fire going to overcome the terrible material they’ve been handed. Screenwriters Nicole Eastman, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith must have written their script after a month-long romantic comedy binge, because The Ugly Truth appropriates material from virtually every successful from rom-com made in the past two decades, most notably Roxanne and When Harry Met Sally. In fact, Rob Reiner may feel like suing for plagarism over one particular sequence in The Ugly Truth, when Heigl goes to a business dinner wearing vibrating panties and winds up showing the entire restaurant her O-face. At least Meg Ryan only had to fake it.
Like so many romantic comedies, The Ugly Truth is set on an alternate Earth where everyone lives in nice houses, drives nice cars and the biggest life challenge any of them face is finding a date. At least, that’s the only problem facing Abby (Heigl), the no-nonsense producer of a local morning talk show that’s been experiencing ratings free-fall. To boost viewership, the station manager hires a new guest commentator named Mike Chadway (Butler), who has attracted a significant fanbase with a public access show devoted to telling women everything they really wanted to know about men, but were afraid to ask. Naturally, the uptight Abby and boorish Mike don’t get along, but she puts aside her intense dislike of her new employee when he gives her Cyrano-like lessons in how to nab a date with the hot surgeon that just moved in next door. Of course, the more time this odd couple spends together the more they–gasp!–like each other. Will they get over their personal issues and realize that they belong together? If you think the answer to this question is no, clearly you need to add more rom-coms to your Netflix queue.
Predictability isn’t the real reason this film falls flat, though. After all, most romantic comedies follow the same plot points; the elements that separate the wheat from the chaff in this genre are the charisma of the stars, the verbal snap of the screenplay and the energetic direction of a fully engaged director. Butler brings substantial charisma to his role and Heigl acquits herself well enough (embarrassing orgasm scene notwithstanding), but the three screenwriters and director Robert Luketic don’t satisfy the rest of the criteria. This isn’t Luketic’s first foray into the romantic comedy realm–he also helmed Legally Blonde and Win a Date with Ted Hamilton! both of which were better-than-average genre fare. But his mind seems to have been elsewhere during the production of this particular film. Every frame is lit and composed like a TV-sitcom instead of a feature film and the dialogue is on that level as well. (That would be a complement if we were talking about a sitcom like Seinfeld or Friends, but this script is closer to The Single Guy or Suddenly Susan.) It’s the very definition of an impersonal Hollywood production: a movie without a single memorable scene or quotable line that’s been made purely to fill up a hole in the studio’s summer release schedule. And that’s the ugly truth about The Ugly Truth.
Verdict: Skip It
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel
Starring Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Michael Bowen
In theory, Deadgirl sounds like the creepiest Stephen King story Stephen King never wrote. Two class-cutting teens are exploring the dilapidated remains of an abandoned asylum when they discover the naked body of a woman locked away in a deep sub-basement. Even stranger, her seemingly lifeless corpse isn’t so lifeless—in fact, she can’t be killed at all. The two guys react to this discovery in strikingly different ways. One can’t wait to get the hell out of that room, but the other is turned on by the idea of being able to do whatever he likes to this nude, nubile, virtually indestructible girl. I won’t spoil what follows, but screenwriter Trent Haaga takes the premise to some dark, disturbing places. Unfortunately, the film itself doesn’t do full justice to Haaga’s script. For starters, directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel have managed to assemble a stunningly untalented ensemble of young actors to bring life to these characters. Their amateurish performances frequently kill the creepy mood Sarmiento and Harel work overtime to create behind the camera. The climax is rushed and unconvincing as well, leading to a final shot that’s meant to be shock, but comes off instead as vaguely goofy. Perhaps Haaga should think about adapting his screenplay into a short novella. On the page, Deadgirl would probably be genuinely scary instead of mildly unsettling.
Verdict: Rent It