Monday, December 21, 2009

Ugly is right

As I've written before, and am likely to write again as long as my wife continues to want to watch them, romantic comedies are not written or produced; they are engineered. They are highly artificial constructs which have little contact with human life as actually lived, but run along in parallel with our experience, perhaps as a detached, fantastical comment upon on it. There is a comedy to be made about a person who actually subscribes to these things as a guide to living.

That might be what they started with when The Ugly Truth (2009) was first conceived. Certainly the idea of what we used to call in the 70's a male chauvinist coaching a romantically challenged woman on what a man expects from a woman is reasonably promising in this farcical universe called romantic comedy. The seeds of what will go right and wrong are pretty clearly established within such a strong idea. But the film shows signs of suffering in post-production. Ideas are established and abandoned. Gerard Butler's character wobbles from being a complete pig on television to a decent guy with his nephew to a decent, but piggish pragmatist in his interactions with the Catherine Heigl character. (By the way, we are supposed to believe that Catherine Heigl has trouble getting men!) Set-ups have no payoff and punchlines lack set-ups. In a social-aesthetic breakthrough, three female screenwriters demonstrate that they can compete in the raunch-stakes. It all feels erratic and careless, and therefore the final result is annoying when it should be satisfying.

Director Robert Luketic's resume includes Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law, With a Date with Tad Hamilton and 21. He must be stopped.

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