A Controversial Gerard Butler Movie Is About To Be Removed From Netflix

By Nathan Kamal | 2 months ago

Gerard Butler

Were the early 2000s the absolute bottom of the barrel for the romantic comedy? While it’s not like the genre has ever really inspired that much respect (when was the last time a rom-com won an Oscar?), the beginning of this millennium really took a dive in any kind of critical acclaim. At the same time as a Judd Apatow-led wave of comedy revitalized the genre of “man-children become less so, kind of,” romantic comedies began to skew that direction. Movies like 27 Dresses, He’s Just Not That into You, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past became both more high-concept and less effective in their appeal as romantic comedies. Faced with an industry that had quickly leaped on the bandwagon of bro-humor filtered through the talents of Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd, the romantic genre tried to adapt by becoming more broad, more crass, and more…well, bad. The Ugly Truth, starring Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl, is both the apex and the nadir of this tendency. The 2009 “romantic” “comedy” is currently streaming on Netflix. But only through the end of the month, so if you want to experience this, get there before April.

And let’s be clear: broad is not a bad thing in itself. Neither is crass. One can even argue that neither are Gerard Butler nor Katherine Heigl, necessarily (though often). But it is very clear that The Ugly Truth is an attempt to Judd Apatowize a different genre, and failing. The movie goes so far to even cast Katherine Heigl, just two years after starring in Apatow’s blockbuster Knocked Up, in a role that is only marginally different from her role in that movie as an ambitious TV entertainment reporter. In The Ugly Truth, the character of Abby Richter can be differentiated by the fact that she is an ambitious TV entertainment producer, and also that she has a cat. Utilizing an innocent cat as a signifier that Heigl is both lonely and unwanted is disrespectful to both audiences and the cat. The movie also barely engages with the fact that Heigl is a self-evidently beautiful and successful woman; neither of those things guarantees a successful love life, but the movie’s portrayal of her as a barely functioning wreck just makes no sense. Seriously, within 24 minutes, the movie has her dangling upside down from a tree after accidentally, then intentionally, peeping on her semi-clothed hunky neighbor. 

Seriously.

Gerard Butler is not given better material, for what it’s worth. After breaking through to American audiences by kicking people into holes and screaming in 300, Butler began to pivot into comedies. He needn’t have bothered. Reportedly, Butler spent time observing “comedian” Adam Carolla to portray his character of Mike Chadway, a chauvinist TV pundit. Basically, Butler spends the film saying absurdly terrible things to and about women, and everyone finds him incredibly charming and witty for it. It also saddles him with the best weapon in a toxic man’s arsenal, the nephew he vaguely cares for in order to show he has a redeeming quality. The movie seems convinced that Butler’s character is charismatic enough that literally telling a woman she is selfish for not faking an orgasm is somehow appealing, rather than a telling sign of sociopathy. He is also praised for his ability to urinate. 

Seriously. 

Gerard Butler

In theory, The Ugly Truth is a classic battle of the sexes, in which a mismatched pair discover their attraction to each other and fall in love. This is the very essence of romantic comedy, as seen in When Harry Met Sally… and It Happened One Night. The Ugly Truth seems to have a vague idea that if Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl are the worst possible combination of people, it will be all that much better if they end up together. This is not the case. The plot of the film barely deserves a description, other than it’s a Cyrano-riff, in which Butler coaches Heigl how to get a man by appealing to men like himself. That means getting hair extensions, showing no signs of her personality, and whenever possible, eating suggestively shaped foods. As you might expect, eventually they actually fall in love and the movie ends with yet another faked orgasm joke. 

It has been argued that The Ugly Truth may be the single worst romantic comedy ever. That’s a bold statement to make, but it is not without merit. The combination of 2009 Gerald Butler and Katherine Heigl was enough to make The Ugly Truth a financial success, and a black hole of critical regard. It certainly isn’t remembered with any kind of fondness, and likely never will be. 

Seriously.