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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The ugly truth about 'The Ugly Truth': It's a stinker!

July 24, 2009 |  4:51 pm

Being a glutton for punishment, last summer I kept track of the amazing streak of dreadful movies that were released by 20th Century Fox, pictures that were so bad they couldn't even score a mediocre 50 at Rotten Tomatoes. I've been trying to pick on someone else for a change, so trust me when I say I wasn't taking any pleasure in the fact that this summer's worst-reviewed movie was -- yikes! -- a piece of Fox teen dreck called "I Love You, Beth Cooper," which in addition to belly-flopping at the box office  scored a lowly 12 at Rotten Tomatoes.

Ugly_truth_ver2 But I've good news for the top Fox brass -- the reviews have been flooding in on "The Ugly Truth," a truly abysmal romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl as a TV producer looking for Mr. Right, and it looks like "Beth Cooper" might lose its Worst Movie of the Summer throne. As of now, "The Ugly Truth," released by Sony Pictures, has a slightly higher 16 score at Rotten Tomatoes, but it scored lower grades than "Beth Cooper" at both Metacritic and Movie Review Intelligence, the other two major movie review aggregation sites.

What separates "The Ugly Truth" from the rest of its competition is that no movie this summer has inspired quite so much vitriol and contempt from the critics. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, usually a softy when it comes to bad movies, dismissively labeled the film "sexist swill," angrily writing: "Toss this ugly-ass crap to the curb." The New York Post's Lou Lumenick had this to say: "Few recent Hollywood products have been anywhere near as crass and contrived as 'The Ugly Truth.' " 

A number of critics were so outraged by the film's portrayal of its heroine and her chauvinist love interest -- played by Gerard Butler -- that they took pains to point out that the movie was written by not one, not two, but three women. Two of its five producers are women as well, proving that women in Hollywood are just as good at pitching sexist swill as any guy. As the Flick Filosopher's Maryann Johanson put it: "I'm trying to figure out what kind of self-hating ... is involved on the parts of three female screenwriters who collaborate to create one of the most horrid female protagonists since, well, 'The Proposal,' and then go on to treat her in such an unforgivable way ... while also being so easy and tolerant of their pig of a hero."

But the coup de grace was delivered by the New York Times' Manohla Dargis, who takes her beef with the movie all the way up the flagpole, not just skewering the three hapless female screenwriters but Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal, who greenlighted the movie. Dargis doesn't mince words, writing:

"One of the lessons of 'The Ugly Truth' -- beyond the obvious one that a desirable, desiring woman can never, ever, be happily single and sexual in modern Hollywood -- is that holding to your hard-won ideals is of no consequence, at least when there's a guy to be hooked. When [Butler] is brought in, [Heigl] fights him because she sees him for what he is: the lowest common denominator. Eventually, though, she succumbs to his coarse ways, even adopting his crude language, because, well, that's what the public wants. Isn't that right, Ms. Pascal?"

I've had my ups and downs with Dargis over the years, but I have to say that it takes guts to call out a female studio chief for such anti-feminist sludge. And the same goes for all the male studio bosses who keep churning out ultra-violent cartoon fantasies for teen boys. Maybe if critics named names more often, studio chiefs might think twice before they so eagerly stooped to conquer.