Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler | R |


When it comes to comedy, size matters: shorter is better. The Ugly Truth, a down-and-dirty romantic comedy, doesn't know when to stop milking a joke. Take a risqué scene involving vibrating underwear. The undies are a joke gift to control freak Abby Richter (Heigl), producer of a local TV morning show in Sacramento, from newly hired commentator Mike Chadway (Butler), whose embrace-your-inner-caveman shtick has boosted ratings, to Abby's dismay. At a business dinner in a restaurant she unintentionally wears the trick briefs, which—big surprise!—begin buzzing. Abby starts moaning. And moaning. More moaning. All that's missing is a When Harry Met Sally fan chiming in with, "I'll have what she's having."

That antagonists Abby and Mike will eventually fall for each other is a given in this aggressively smutty comedy. That Truth is so flat-footed about getting them there makes the trip a long haul. Heigl works too hard to be primly cute, while Butler leans heavily on chest-thumping charm. The only truth revealed is that while finding love is hard, making a successful romantic comedy is even harder.

>The 30 Rock star, 40, voices a guinea pig action hero

ON HIS NOT-SO-FURRY PETS I have snakes, three sharks, moray eels, piranhas and five scorpions. It's like going to the zoo when you come to my house.

ON HIS KIDS My sons [Gitrid, 23, Malcolm, 21, Tracy Jr., 17] are funnier than I could ever be. I'm the type of dad that will drop everything for them. I'm not as crazy as you'd think!

>There's nothing like an evil little kid to give a horror movie that extra chill. But can the junior villain of the new Orphan match these creepy all-stars?

ISABELLE FUHRMAN In Orphan, which didn't screen in time to review, Fuhrman plays Esther, a 9-year-old adopted from an orphanage. But soon Esther's mom starts to suspect that her sweet-acting new daughter may be a little killer.

PATTY MCCORMACK In The Bad Seed (1956), the seminal vile-child flick, McCormack rocked as Rhoda, a pint-size, pig-tailed psychopath.

LINDA BLAIR Playing possessed Regan in The Exorcist (1973), Blair memorably projectile-vomited pea soup when the devil made her do it.

HARVEY STEPHENS In the first version of The Omen (1976, remade in 2006), he glowered as Damien, the Antichrist come to life in short pants.

>THE ANSWER MAN In a genial romantic comedy that grows on you once it finds its rhythm, Jeff Daniels (right) is a reclusive author of an inspirational best-seller who falls for his chiropractor (Lauren Graham). (R)

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IN THE LOOP Anglo-American politics is the subject of this withering satire, a hilarious look at high-level, bilateral bullying and bungling during the run-up to an unnamed war. James Gandolfini (left) stars. (Not rated)

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>• After college and a six-year break from acting, the former kid star, 28, returns as a sexy intern in In the Loop

WHY'D YOU LEAVE ACTING? I needed to pursue other things. If you're not getting hired during your adolescence, which is already an insecure time, you feel like you're being disapproved of. I went to the University of Chicago and studied International Studies. It was my first taste of doing something just 'cause I liked it.

BUT YOU KEPT GETTING SIGNS YOU'D RETURN. One day I was walking to work and a psychic followed me an entire block and said, "I have a message for you! You're not done with this business yet!"

HOW WAS SHOOTING LOOP IN LONDON? They take a break on-set at tea time. It's incredible! They pass around little sandwiches.

EVER IMAGINE A MY GIRL 3? My mom used to joke that Vada [her character, whose dad ran a funeral home] would learn to drive in a hearse.