There is little chemistry between co-stars Katherine Heigel and Gerard Butler in this charmless war of the sexes story, but there is even less chemistry between the two genres it tries to combine, the romantic comedy (sunny pop song over opening credits, cute meet, conflict with some sparks of attraction, makeover sequence) and the outrageous sex farce with many raunchy references to sex acts and body parts.
Heigel, whose wholesome beauty worked effectively as a raunch repellent in “Knocked Up,” here plays Abby, a typical romantic comedy heroine — romantically idealistic but a little controlling to make up for her insecurity. She is the producer of a low-rated Sacramento morning show featuring a married couple (John Michael Higgins and Cheryl Hines) who are all perkiness on camera but snipe at each other off air between segments. To improve ratings, she is forced to add Mike (Butler) to the show, a guy from cable access who believes that both men and women need to understand that everyone will be happier if they just acknowledge that we are essentially animals. So, men may pretend they want to respect women but all the time they are listening sympathetically and making romantic gestures they are only hoping to [insert sex act here].
Abby despises everything Mike stands for. But when she meets her very own Dr. McDreamy, a man who has all ten attributes on her check-list, she enlists Mike’s help in bagging him. He tells her to be unavailable, laugh a lot, wear skimpier clothes, never complain (“Even constructive criticism?” she asks in disbelief), and wear lacy, remote-controlled vibrating underpants, which he thoughtfully provides. So we are subjected to a scene in which a child finds the remote control and clicks it on and off and ON and OFF just as Abby is at a restaurant with Mike, Dr. Perfect, and some big shots from corporate.
One scene lurches into the next with no sense of moving toward anything. For a movie like this to work, we need to believe that the parties will come out of their opposing corners and make some progress toward the big clinch. Heigel and Butler seem to be watching the clock, as uncomfortable with their unlikeable characters as we are. The truth may not be ugly, but this movie is.