Infused with a number of almost eye-rollingly hoary elements, The Ugly Truth remains a mildly diverting yet thoroughly uninvolving romantic comedy virtually from start to finish - with Gerard Butler's expectedly charismatic performance standing as the film's one overtly positive attribute. The storyline follows uptight television producer Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) as she finds herself forced to work with a boorish correspondent (Butler's Mike Chadway) who's been brought in to increase ratings, with Abby's initial disgust eventually transforming into reluctant admiration as Mike teaches her how to win the affections of a hunky doctor (Eric Winter's Colin). There's little doubt that the initial emphasis on Abby and her hopelessly hackneyed exploits ensures that The Ugly Truth gets off to a decidedly underwhelming start, as Heigl proves consistently unable to transform her cardboard cutout of a character into a fully-realized figure worthy of the viewer's sympathy (or even interest). The stagnant, stale atmosphere persists until Butler becomes an increasingly prominent force within the proceedings, after which point the focus shifts to Mike and Abby's unapologetically wacky escapades (ie Abby, wearing an earpiece, receives advice from Mike while on a date) and the film temporarily emerges from its doldrums. Director Robert Luketic's sitcom-like approach to the material subsequently fares best during this stretch, yet it's just as clear that the filmmaker's pervasively superficial approach ensures that the movie begins to seriously run out of steam as it passes the one hour mark - with the third act's lamentably melodramatic bent essentially diminishing the effectiveness of the expectedly upbeat conclusion. The end result is an utterly tired romcom that admittedly benefits from Butler's mere presence, although it's clear from the get-go that the actor deserves better material than this.
Vice Versa (November 13/09)
An inoffensively entertaining '80s comedy, Vice Versa follows harried department-store executive Marshall Seymour (Judge Reinhold) as he inadvertently switches bodies with his adolescent son (Fred Savage's Charlie) after coming into contact with a mysterious skull. Aside from the expected problems associated with the exchange - ie Marshall must contend with several of his son's bullies - Marshall and Charlie are also forced to dodge the advances of two comically inept smugglers (Swoosie Kurtz's Tina and David Proval's Turk) who are determined to retrieve the aforementioned skull. It's an admittedly irresistible premise that's initially employed to disappointingly middling effect by filmmaker Brian Gilbert, as the film boasts an opening half hour that's hardly as compelling as one might've hoped - with the surprisingly low-rent visuals and production values effectively exacerbating the movie's less-than-enthralling atmosphere. It's only as Marshall and Charlie trade places that Vice Versa becomes the overtly (and unapologetically) wacky piece of work one might've expected, as the emphasis is consistently placed on the two characters' fish-out-of-water high jinks within their respective environs (ie Charlie stages an impromptu rock concert within the music section of his father's department store, while Marshall explains away the antisocial behavior of a classmate by noting that "he's a depressing indictment of our educational system.") And although Savage is quite good here, there's little doubt that Reinhold's gleefully over-the-top work stands as Vice Versa's most entertaining attribute - with the actor's go-for-broke turn effectively smoothing over the film's various problems and ultimately cementing its place as an agreeable (yet forgettable) entry within the body-switching genre.
About the DVDs: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents both films with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although Vice Versa comes up short in terms of supplemental materials, The Ugly Truth boasts deleted scenes, alternate endings, a gag reel, featurettes, and more.