28 June 2014

More Witchy and Demonic Viewings!

Witchy and Demonic Viewings, Two!
By Kristin Battestella

Another night, another quartet of foreign witches, campy cults, musical devils, and a whole lot of sexy, scary panache! 

The Devil Within Her – We know the happiness of having a baby is moot for this 1975 British tale once the hip title music, disturbing medical tools, heady zooming lights, and a writhing Joan Collins (Dynasty) start this 90 minutes off with an arduous delivery. There’s surprisingly little blood and gore considering the amounts shown onscreen then and now – not to mention the reality of a difficult 12 lb birth! – but toss in a baby who will scratch his mother, bite the maid, tear up his own toys or try to drown his nurse and the mood is set! What he does to dad Ralph Bates (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde), well…hehehehe. I wonder if Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky title came from Collins’ screaming “Nicky! Nicky!” when her devil baby flips out at his christening? Period but pointless London streets and retro cars accent a juicy Caroline Munroe (The Spy Who Loved Me), brief strip club nudity, and a laughably filmed sex scene, but the flashback narration should have been shown instead of told. Most of this so serious is just too hokey and amusing because without special effects for our knife wielding newborn, the child violence scenes have to be bad up close shots or humorous cut away action. An eerie dream sequence is horror fine, but flashes of spurned dwarf George Claydon (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) as a baby are absurd. Faux Italian accents and superstitious medieval talk are also ridiculous, and the little person portrayals as evil, cursing, freakish, undesirable folk run rampant. A viewer can’t tell if the plot is chastising and blaming the eponymous Lucy for her stripping past and marrying rich or rooting for her as a victim of this monstrous baby. It’s tough to take the intriguing notions of an evil birth or a post partum mother seriously as well thanks to the surprisingly amusing but misogynistic men who think she must be exaggerating the bad baby behavior. This could have been something unseen sinister or all in a mother’s demented state of mind, but awkward scenes debating medicine versus religious magic fill up the time without really discussing any intelligent or scary possibilities. Fortunately, fun performances from doctor Donald Pleasence (Halloween) and nun Eileen Atkins (Cranford) can’t be faulted, and there’s enough bemusement for the audience to see the outlandish through to the inexplicable finale. I mean, lab testing on mice nuns who study animal psychology?! 

Fascination – Writer and director Jean Rollin (The Nude Vampire) uses eerie zooms and haunting camera speeds to provide wonderful turn of the century style and Old World feelings for this 1979 French saucy. Phonographs and period music, ominous sounds, flowing white frocks, frilly lace, feathered hats, graceful mannerisms, candles, decorated interiors, natural visuals, and a great castle locale contrast the morbid slaughter house, vivid red colors, blood, rogue, symbolic lips, scythes, black robes, and blonde/brunette or good girl/bad girl expectations. Talk about a sexy grim reaper! It does help to know your français, sure, but the fine performances and talk of death taking the form of seduction add extra panache and gothic allure even amid any translation discrepancies on the available English subtitles. The laid back mood may be tough for modern American audiences, but the curious characters and simmering atmosphere is soon set with crimes, betrayal, and a siege situation – not to mention how the boobs are out early and often. We’re immediately intrigued in how one man is going to survive being locked in a house with blonde Brigitte Lahaie (I as in Icarus) and brunette Franca Mai (Zig Zag Story), let alone five more cultish women and a blindfold! Though there’s a lot of skin and tender kissing, the saucy scenes may also be a whole lot of nothing for those who are expecting more full on porn. This pretty Victorian via seventies French lesbianism won’t be for everyone but the kinky sucks the viewer in for the disturbingly delightful fashions, sinister switch, and sophisticated chic.

The Mephisto Waltz – Demonic Bond on acid opening credits set the mood for this 1971 simmering satanic thriller along with sweet cars, fancy décor, statues, and of course, creepy uses of the titular Litsz from composer Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen). Although one should probably appreciate classical music before watching, the diabolic orchestration accents the twisted relationships, foreboding zooms, askew angles, and macabre mid century masks. Enough smoke and nudity suggest more while strategic shadows and gauzy glows add dimension to hazy dream sequences. Set off the deadly rituals and eerie funeral with morbid French texts, and it’s easy to root for Jacqueline Bisset (Day for Night) and her understandably suspicious anchor against the decadently posh Curd Jurgens (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Barbara Parkins (Peyton Place). Alan Alda (M*A*S*H), however, is unfortunately too limp in his quest for high art and evil society. He doesn’t show the madness or range needed nor even any maniacal piano playing – he’s plastered for a face cast in one scene and his presence remains the same! Wise viewers or readers of the source novel may expect what happens – there’s an obligatory old-time library research montage, too – but the immoral isn’t always so apparent. Considering its title and subject, perhaps this isn’t as depraved or shocking as other occult pictures of the era, either. Despite some head scratching motivations or plot holes, the scary pacing, freaky drama, and sometimes unexpected turn of events give the audience a few good shocks and mysteries indeed. 

The Witch’s Mirror – Oft spooky actor Abel Salazar (The Curse of the Crying Woman) produced this black and white 1962 Mexican horror treat with Isabela Corona (A Man of Principle) as a creepy housekeeper amid the excellent smoke and mirrors and titular visual effects. From a macabre prologue and illustrations to Victorian mood, candles, and rituals, El Espejo de la Bruja has it all – love triangles, jerky husbands, revenge, betrayals, grave robbing, and ghoulish medicine. The plot is at once standard yet also nonsensical thanks to all the sorcery, implausible surgeries, ghosts, fire, even catalepsy all building in over the top, soap opera-esque twists. The sets are perhaps simplistic or small scale with only interior filming, but this scary, play-like atmosphere is enough thanks to wonderful shadows, gothic décor, and freaky, sinister music. Several language and subtitle options are available along with the feature and commentary on the DVD as well – not that any of the dubbing, subtitles, or original Spanish completely matches. The audio is also messed up in some spots, but the script is fun and full of cultish summonings and medical fantasies. Maybe this one will have too much happening for some viewers, as every horror treatise is thrown at the screen here. However, this is a swift, entertaining 75 minutes nonetheless and it doesn’t let up until the end.

23 June 2014

70s Creatures and Killers

Seventies Creatures and Killers
By Kristin Battestella

From poisonous snakes and wild yetis to deadly daughters and a killer family playing house, here’s a quartet of deranged creatures and murderous mayhem replete with seventies charm.

Blood Mania – The swanky music might not be for everyone, but the period clothes are groovy, and dreamy, wild opening credits with wispy nightgowns and psychedelic lighting start this 1970 flick off right. Producer, writer, and star Peter Carpenter (Point of Terror) has intimate fun with the dames and the double entendres while his crusty doctor turned invalid patient worries if his slutty daughter Maria De Aragon (the face behind Greedo in Star Wars, wow!) is poisoning his breakfast. The blackmail and twists play like a porno edited without the follow thru – seriously, the morning bathtub, the pool boy, a crook ogling a wife, tension between said daughter and the pissy nurse – all before one heady, hazy, drug induced sex scene. This sexploitation design gets to the naked chicks in frothy bathtubs and seducing swimming pools quickly, however the horror is slow coming for an 80-minute picture. Not only is there a fun romantic romp at the marketplace montage and characters entering the uneven plots too late, but it’s halfway thru the film before we get to contesting family wills and something sinister afoot. Fans of soft saucy and juicy skin with only a little crazy and creepy scares can have a good night in here for sure. There is a bloody good, gory, if a bit nonsensical finale, too. However, I’m not sure how this was ever classified as horror or ended up with such a mismatched title. Indeed, I do hope these rumors of a missing twenty minutes resolve the scary plot holes and more importantly comes out on video soon!

Girly – Originally entitled Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, and Girly, director Freddie Francis (Dracula Has Risen from the Grave) crafts a character unto itself in the lovely Oakley Court estate landscapes and its 1970 décor and period interiors for this hour and forty minutes. Fun zoo and animal footage adds to the seemingly safe and secure before creepy voiceovers, suggestive siblings, loony adults, and playing dress up reveal the mischievous but perfectly demented Mary Poppins manner soon to unravel thanks to disturbing Lolita feelings, implied sexual aspects, and playmate macabre. Some today may find the pace slow to get going or the no one acting their ages British baby talk annoying, but the twisted build and off kilter humor work nicely with the perspective camera work, hinted violence, and increasingly disturbing intensity. Unexpected jack in a box jump moments keep the audience on edge while bizarre adult size cribs and rocking horses accent the sickly effective racist and anti-Christian moments. At times, it may be tough to laugh at the unseen nasty and the well done skin crawling feeling it creates, yet this peculiar family unit is strangely entertaining. The twisted sing songs and murderous rhymes escalate toward a darker tone as the fun and games turn into a life and death test of dementia and wills. How did this all begin and where is it going? How long can these divisive depravities endure? Horror fans expecting blood and gore or final analysis may be disappointed, but those who enjoy depraved character studies with clever implications will delight in the simmering spectacle here.

Snowbeast – Ominous music and dangerous snowy slopes belie the sunshiny 1977 ski fashions, snowmobiles, and lush Colorado locales peppering this deadly bigfoot tale. Despite the faded public print, a slightly small scale made for television production, and some pathetically lame bloody ski jackets; lovely forests and mountain photography shine along with tracking zooms and killer camera perspectives. And the cast knows how to ski! The spooky atmosphere restarts slightly once Bo Svenson (Breaking Point) and Yvette Mimieux (The Time Machine) arrive, and a past love triangle is somewhat unnecessary, as is a skimpy Olympic flashback. However, these elements provide some unexpected for a horror movie of the week dialogue on how Olympians often have difficulty coming down to mortal levels and regular life after such glory. Womanly angst aside, this really is just a Jaws in the snow clone – one man believes in a monster after an opening attack, but pesky grandma Sylvia Sidney (Beetlejuice) dismisses it as an avalanche and withholds the news because the economically needed carnival must go on. Unheeding people take to the slopes, death ensues, and sheriff Clint Walker (Cheyenne) claims it was a grizzly attack by presenting a mistakenly shot bear. Contrived miscommunication and crap police action grow tiresome and the ski montages are a tad longer than necessary. Thankfully, the period lack of smartphones and natural snowy isolation remain effective. Shaggy Yeti arm appearances create scare toppers amid the more dramatic act by act pace, and the bigfoot gone wild is smartly only seen in shadows, dark windows, hairy flashes, or with quick, snarling teeth. Seeing what the monster does – over turned vehicles, logs tumbling, shattered glass – rather than what it definitively is keeps this watchable despite those Jaws comparisons and dated archetypes.  The pace is uneven in the final act – switching focus on characters and coming to a somewhat speedily conclusion considering how we really just watched people skiing for 85 minutes – but this one remains fun for a summer cool down or a snowy night in with the family. 

Stanley – 1972 eco statements, animal photography, and lots of peace and love music start this 100 plus minutes before the period Everglades beauty quickly turns into dangerous swamps and fatal quicksand. For some viewers, the poisonous snakes and creepy crawly pets will be horror enough thanks to effective slithering and hissing sounds – our titular friend is a rattlesnake, after all. Star Chris Robinson (12 O’clock High) must have been very comfortable with all those snakes around his neck! Racist injun and redskin remarks and more inappropriate attitudes of the time from the wrong people around him, however, don’t make his Tim any more likeable for the audience. He’s too warped and creepy, talking to snakes, sleeping with his little friends, and using the critters for his own reprisals. What gives him the right? Interesting Seminole reflections don’t have time to blossom either thanks to the obligatory biting the villain on the butt sequence. Enemy Alex Rocco (The Godfather) has some icky incestuous dialogue as well, but these shenanigans away from Stanley’s vengeance feel somewhat pointless. Lullaby music for baby snakes and snake funerals are also a bit too bemusing and confuse the tone of the picture. Is this serious about reptile abuses or is it meant to be hokey? Knowing that the snakes themselves were most likely mistreated during production of the film kind of mars any environmental statements to be had. The burlesque shows onscreen are weak and the pace is more run of the mill revenge action than horror, but there are some original, fun moments here with plenty of snaky bits to make your skin crawl. 

12 June 2014

I Think, Therefore I Review at Horror Addicts.net!

Greetings, Thinkers!

Are you a fan of our Horror Film and Television essays and reviews?  Then stop by Horror Addicts.net for more of our Macabre!


This week alone we are having a Triumvirate of Terror special, and our Buffy The Vampire Slayer articles have also visited with the Addicts along with many more of our movie and DVD reviews such as Dark Shadows!

Bookmark and follow the horror hep cat “Kbatz” tag for our scary film and television posts or visit Horror Addicts.net for a complete schedule of the ongoing podcast season. That’s right, you can HEAR samples of Yours Truly talking terror and answering your dead mail! 

Don't forget that I Think, Therefore I Review is also part of the Horror Blogger Alliance! If you have a horror website, check out their latest membership drive!

We've also reached over 300,000 hits here on the main blog at I Think, Therefore I Review, too!  So THANK YOU to all who've stopped by and commented, and here's to many more essays, lists, articles, and reviews - scary or not!!

10 June 2014

More Sixties Scary Movies

Sixties Scares Again!
By Kristin Battestella

Black and white or color, big horror names or mid century unknowns – a lot of scary movies made in the sixties were hit or miss. Here are a few low budget good, better, and worst shockers from that swanky decade of yore.

Terrified – A masked, suit and tie-wearing vigilante buries people alive in shallow graves before driving folks off the road near an old west ghost town in this 1963 caper. Although there’s some bad acting from the generic cast and one hokey, fainting old lady who can’t handle the swerving cars, the titular start is indeed, well, titular thanks to the slow torment of these victims. The young love triangle potential isn’t fifties sweetheart in tone – these older protagonists are classy couples amid scares and cool cars even when the dated dialogue or seemingly deep analysis on fear and crazy are too obvious. People do spend a bit too much time driving from one location to the next and merely talking about past actions and town kooks, making this 80 minutes feel slow. However, the scary action is an interesting, slasher precursor style almost Saw-esque in his games, mystery, and sick motivations. Abandoned saloon halls and old cemeteries work with the on scene, in camera design, and the atmospheric music accents the terror despite the poor sound quality today. Black and white photography hides the most likely cheap production savings but also adds to the isolated, old time mood. Solitary shadows, flashlights, and cobwebs heighten the danger as the pace increases amid largely anonymous villainy, surprising fates, and onscreen physicality. I’m surprised this is so obscure for the B movie low expectations are more than met here for a fun, spooky late night. I mean, who goes down thru the trap door in the creepy old west ghost town when a killer is on the loose, honestly?! 

Trauma – Wheelchair bound Lynn Bari (Blood and Sand) adds an air of class and poise in this black and white 1962 hour and a half before the eponymous scary watery action ensues. Writer and director Robert Malcolm Young (Escape to Witch Mountain) jumps right into understandable fear of wide-eyed young girls scared to walk alone in the woods at night. The bizarre state of mind mood is quickly set by old houses, furniture covered with sheets, and handymen who may or may not be creepy. The atmosphere is also surprisingly suggestive – one young girl with all these men of varying degrees of pursuit and affection around her, including a suspicious husband John Conte (The Man with the Golden Arm) who conveniently moves in to control his ward turned amnesiac wife Lorrie Richards (The Magic Sword). While some of the supporting acting is over the top and the public print’s picture may be a little flat, eerie music and the shady innuendo is enough to keep the audience interested as our sick young wife goes exploring in a dark, disturbing mansion full of hazy memories, gas lighting, and scares. Scenes with one or two persons talking may be slow to some, and architecture firm scenes don’t go about revealing the information on mysterious building additions, family secrets, and past scandals very well. However, the twists and natural fears are intriguing enough to see the mystery through to the end – unless you are a viewer with a fear of water or drowning! I’m surprised this little treat is so unknown, too.

Split Decision

Doctor Blood’s Coffin – Widowed nurse Hazel Court (The Masque of the Red Death) and her traditional, tight, white uniform pretty up this 1961 British hour and half full of radical human experimentation, old-fashioned medical styles, big bottles of chloroform, classic cars, and more. Good scary scoring, suspenseful moments, action, violence, and twists pick up as the unethical medicine intensifies, but confusing cave action and obvious romance make the pace uneven. The plot also meanders, taking its precious time in getting to what is a sweet, heavy finale. The lack of subtitles, poor sound, and a badly lit picture unfortunately interferes with the intriguing morality versus science debates and food for thought consequences. Likewise, leading man Kieron Moore (The 300 Spartans) feels a little too dry compared to the pizzazz we expect from Hazel. Fans of Court can enjoy a viewing and the story here is enticing enough, but the low budget filming, poor print, and lack of polish can make this one tough to watch for casual horror audiences.


Madmen of Mandoras – Deadly government G-gas toxins, elusive antidotes, supposed science fiction shockers, abduction scandals, and not so much horror opens this 1963 black and white mishmash filled with more standard action, gunfire, and attempted noir than genre fair. Yes, somehow there are military looks and evil Nazis. Sure, this is the 74-minute version of what was also later padded to 90 minutes and called They Saved Hitler’s Brain. However, a wooden cast and too many stupid people make it tough to care for the loose story either way. A weird flashback dumps the eponymous “Mr.  H.” angst into the middle of the picture, but what do the missing persons have to do with this Frankensteinish goofy? When explanations are finally given after all the traveling, mid century cars, fancy planes, faux Spanish talk, and swanky dancing, it’s a whole lot more of too many things clashing at once, and ultimately, none of it makes any sense. Hitler’s head has been on ice and we’ve been watching anonymous shootouts and belly dancing? If you can stand it, this is laughably bad thanks to the Hitler head in jar riding in the backseat. No, you didn’t misread that!

Nightmare in Wax – The dialogue is tough to hear at times and the script doesn’t make much sense in this 1969 copy harkening Vincent Price and mid-fifties horror with its warped, intentionally extreme color saturation. Unseen killer perspectives, a creepy elevator, and ominous parking garage violence quickly fall prey to a confusing wax who is who and flashbacks interrupting the police investigation. The film within a film feelings of wax displays, disappearing stars, old Hollywood name dropping, and recognizable wax models don’t help a cast that’s nothing to write home about – toss in a unclear, convoluted revenge, blackmail, attempted sexy, and hip sixties music and this 95 minutes feels overlong. The few scary moments, creepy settings, wax twists, murder, drugs, and hypnosis unnecessarily jump back and forth with the flashbacks, and menacing chases don’t happen until an hour into the film. This was clearly made fast and furious to cash in on a drive-in double bill, and without any real gore or nudity, this feels like a too tame knock off. Some low budget horror audiences may find that tone just fine, but there could have been a lot more mystery and scary museum designs instead of an inexplicable, rehashed mess.

08 June 2014

The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth Not All Bad, but Too Dang Tidy and Safe
By Kristin Battestella

I keep swearing I won’t watch another Gerard Butler romantic comedy – heck, how many are there? The Ugly Truth, however, actually isn’t that bad thanks to some fun scenes, innuendo, and chemistry amid the cast. Unfortunately, this 2009 romp falls prey to its own predictability, short sightedness, and every pretty expectation of the romantic comedy genre.

TV producer Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) reluctantly accepts crass guest reporter Mike Chadway (Butler) as part of her morning news program. Mike’s ‘The Ugly Truth’ segment soon becomes a hit in the ratings, pleasing Abby’s network bosses while her personal life and controlling checklist dates go awry. Mike vows that the relationship advice and man tips from his show are the exact thing Abby needs in order to land handsome doctor and new next door neighbor Colin (Eric Winter). Her transformation from prudish to knock out, however, soon affects Mike just as much as the ensnared Colin.

Like Pygmalion or My Fair Lady and The Taming of the Shrew before it, The Ugly Truth presents every rom com cliché while the audience waits for the inevitable from director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), new writer Nicole Eastman, and producers and co-writers Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith (Ella Enchanted, The House Bunny). As if these people would not end up together after he does her up pretty for someone else and of course, they fall in love during the process instead. For a supposedly mature comedy targeted toward today’s intelligent audiences, the too sweet plot here doesn’t go far enough. Dirty word drops go through the motions, and considering a title like this, there isn’t enough vulgar or hard sexual content. The Ugly Truth comes off as pretty tame with no nudity or pushing the envelope – tumblr is more in the gutter than Mike’s show within a show! Nothing here is shocking – which hampers a lot of the laugh out loud possibilities – and again, real news programs and daytime talk shows offer more scandalous material these days. The potential is here to take the battle of the sexes to the next level, but The Ugly Truth goes backward by adhering to the romantic nineties movies ideal page for page. Nothing new comes in the expected, tried and true public revelation finale here. Once the high school dance, then the college competition, Someone Like You already gave adults the televised confession before The Ugly Truth. The heart symbols on the posters akin to today’s “it’s complicated” and “in a relationship” social media clicks, but The Ugly Truth would have been better had it abandoned the predictable comedy formulas for a sardonic, serious look on screwed up relationships in the 21st century workplace.

Mike flirts with Abby from the start, smacking her ass, drinking from her glass. He admits he thinks of her sexually and tells her that she is a very attractive, but inaccessible woman. He’s distracted by her activities, says they make a great team, and gets aroused by her “teaching the teacher” touch. Everything he tells her about how to get Colin is surely the way to get him, too – he knows it is working on Colin because he himself likes her. Mike is upset at the thought of her Lake Tahoe weekend plans, he initiates the dance with Abby, and I could go on with yet more examples that she was too stupid to see. He buys her vibrating panties, for goodness sake; The Ugly Truth is not the mysterious relationship ninety minute rocket science it makes itself out to be. Abby hasn’t seen enough rom coms apparently, and the men versus women honesty here is marred by this pulling pigtails and wasting time. Why change her for another guy before revealing your own matching nature to who she originally was? Do people actually do this instead of just asking someone out or getting to know them warts and all? Mike is supposed to be oafish and seemingly beneath Abby, but the naughty messages on his phone, gawking female co-workers, and one hard up sales lady certainly find him appealing. It’s totally apparent that Mike is simply an unqualified guy who’s been burned. This is even suggested three times in The Ugly Truth before anyone realizes it – affirmation coming from an on-TV burn, of course – but by that point, the movie is almost over and a kiss is supposed to make everything all better.

“They want to be actresses, who am I to kill their dreams? … I only slept with the one who can read.” Gerard Butler has admitted Mike Chadway is the role most like himself, and that is kind of how he plays the part. Though he seems puffy or bloated in some scenes and there’s apparently a concerted effort to not have him shirtless – except when he’s covered with Jello – Butler does not look bad here. Maybe he’s not as uber unrealistically buff as in 300, but he’s not flabby as paparazzi photos from the time would suggest, and this normal, natural build, dark hair, and hint of scruff is everyman refreshing. His bad American accent, however, stinks in comparison to his natural Scottish brogue. Butler’s charm, personality, and naughty delivery can be down right fetching, and he has some great off the cuff zingers such as “Why am I a manwhore?” and after licking said Jello off a girl’s finger, “I can still taste you…you know what I mean!” However, this relaxed wit and timing is thanks to Butler’s charisma and not the stunted script that leaves him with a few failed deadpan jokes. Mike’s sentimental but undercooked family angles are also never given any special dimension beyond plot contrivances and the obligatory awww moments in relation to the romance – an obvious infatuation that dumbs down everyone in The Ugly Truth.

Abby is a control freak, sure, but what’s so wrong with her as is? Can’t she be a strong, powerful, confident, at work woman without changing any of that to land a man? Hair extensions and a good bra are all you need – that’s not a very positive message. We may poke fun or archetype this perception of all business ice queen prude, but Abby’s misrepresenting herself to Colin instead of being upfront is no better. Viewers only learn the cliché checklist basics about Abby so we can bare minimum relate to the drastic change in what she will do for a guy. Are we supposed to like her as herself or as the girl she’s pretending to be? The audience has no chance to see the female spectrum and intriguing complexities between the nun or slut extremes – this “librarian and the stripper” Ginger or Maryann duality is too broadly defined against all this compromising for a man she is isn’t so sure she really wants. Despite her Grey’s Anatomy success, I still think in some ways Katherine Heigl is just repeating her debut in My Father the Hero over and over again. Unfortunately, her best moments are somewhat spoiled in the trailer, and the physical comedy also feels forced. Although that goofy slapstick might have been an unnecessarily intentional attempt to make Heigl more awkward than she really is, the irony is that Abby might have been better off with Colin had Mike not interfered with these elaborate antics. Her making his advice go awry is played for the laughs too many times – the kiss cam at the baseball game, her orgasmic dinner thanks to the vibrating panties.  These segments can be amusing or cause a chuckle, but the standard embarrassment leading to love measures are not new and again, today masturbation and sexual topics are dealt with far more frankly. The Mike and Abby dance scene is sexy for fans of the stars, but can the viewer enjoy that they’ve finally caught on to what we’ve been watching all along? Eric Winter (Witches of East End) as Colin is very pretty to look at, too, but he serves as an undeveloped stock fifth wheel who is also somehow the only person other than Abby who remains unaware of what’s happening. Colin wraps a sprained ankle and answers the phone in a white lab coat just to show he is a surgeon – therefore he needs no further development than actually being a prick once said lab coat comes off in the end. The Ugly Truth takes another step back by objectifying its characters instead of treating them as the intelligent people they are supposed to be.

In fact, the supporting players in The Ugly Truth make for much more interesting possibilities than the standard clichés presented. John Michael Higgins (Ally McBeal) as Larry and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Georgia are rocky husband and wife anchors with excellent wit and banter. They are angry and loving as the film progresses – perhaps showing the pros and cons of Mike’s ‘Ugly Truth’ tests better than Abby’s transformation – and their workplace tug and pull is sassy and unique. Sadly, their quips don’t receive enough attention because of course that would deviate from the run of the mill rom com form. The Ugly Truth could have been an enjoyable ensemble piece with several grown-up, real world relationship dynamics that just happen to hit the fan at a wacky TV station. Instead, great one-liners from the secondary players are tossed in so fast that the audience has no chance to chuckle. We have to get back to the Pygmalion rather than let characters such as Bree Turner’s (Grimm) Joy fully blossom. Abby’s best friend has to happily remain in her place as the lonely assistant who lives vicariously through her. If Abby was such a bad case, what does that say about Joy? Are we supposed to believe she is content in this inferior position when she seems to be just as confident in her job – if not more – and romantically available? She sees both Abby and Mike’s flaws, their chemistry, and knows what to do about it and anything that goes wrong during the entire film yet receives no recognition in The Ugly Truth. Maybe it’s asking too much for the quote Jello twins (I’m not even sure who they are in the credits because I can’t recall if they are actually named onscreen!) to be developed characters, but their saint or sinner perspectives, slutty humor, or misunderstood dorkable could have embodied some interesting repartee. Cranky boss Nick Searcy (From the Earth to the Moon) is always fearful of bad ratings, but we never get a sense of the humor in his hopelessness or the incompetence of fellow news crew such as Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) because they only appear in a few early scenes before sadly disappearing all together. But hey, Craigy Fergy and The Late Late Show make a penultimate appearance!

The Ugly Truth is also showing its age thanks to now dated technology, big televisions, answering machines, old flip phones, and barely visible text messages beneath the Sprint product placement banners. Sprint? Sprint? Of the moment, in your face pop music also overshadows some scenes and makes excuses for long transitions and montages. The fashions are somewhat generic, but it bugs me greatly that you can see those hummin’ black undies underneath Abby’s white dress! Why didn’t anyone have the foresight to change the color of one or the other? Like that remote would be so big and obvious either. The Sacramento locales and setting are different and pleasant, but it’s still typical California suave and sunshine accented with big city moments. Perhaps somewhere more fictional or small town anonymous might have added flavor or quirky to the form. Ironically, the off the cuff bloopers from The Ugly Truth seem more genuine and funny with natural quotes and catchy Freudian slips. One can’t watch those video outtakes or deleted scenes on television airings of The Ugly Truth, of course, and too many nonsensical edits, language cuts, and excised innuendo on TV further create a bland, going through the motions narrative. If you watch, definitely stick with an unedited edition – although this isn’t a hard R and is probably safe for wise teenagers today.  

Because it is comprised of such repeat cliché fodder, The Ugly Truth is certainly watchable, even rewatchabe for romance fans aware of the film’s routine expectations. Fans of the cast can enjoy their charm even if the joy of the ensemble is largely wasted potential trapped in the same old, same old. The Ugly Truth simply doesn’t have the broad reaching, massive audience, mature sex comedy appeal for which it might have hoped, but it isn’t all bad when figuring in the players’ charms against the rom com formula. Viewers have to accept The Ugly Truth for what it is rather than what it could have been and take the fun where you can get it. Otherwise, you’ll be pulling out those hair extensions!