Title: Life as We Know It
Directed By: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Hayes MacArthur, Christina Hendricks, Melissa McCarthy, Jessica St. Clair, Rob Huebel, Britt Flatmo, Alexis Clagett, Brynn Clagett, Brooke Clagett
Another romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl; should you prepare for more of the same? Yes, but surprisingly, in this case, more of the same isn’t all that bad. Someone must have told Heigl she’s been trying way too hard because in Life as We Know It, she dials it down a notch returning to the undeniably natural actress we grew to love in Knocked Up. Pair her up with the considerably charismatic Josh Duhamel and a cooing baby, and you’ve got a guaranteed crowd pleaser all the way through.
You know the saying, “opposites attract?” Well, that’s far from the case with Holly and Messer (Heigl and Duhamel). Holly is the orderly owner of a small café while Messer’s a wild and free-spirited sports television broadcast technician. Back in 2007, their best friends, Alison and Peter (Christina Hendricks and Hayes MacArthur), took the aforementioned saying to heart and set the two up on a date. The night was a disaster to say the least, but thanks to their mutual friends, it was impossible for Holly and Messer to avoid one another, especially when their buddies had a baby girl and named the duo the godparents.
Tragedy strikes just after baby Sophie’s first birthday when her parents pass away in a car accident. Now, not only do Holly and Messer have to manage a hefty dose of grief, but Sophie as well, because Alison and Peter designate Holly and Messer Sophie’s new parents in their will. Dumbfounded, but compelled, they opt to put their differences aside as best they can and bunk down in their late pals’ house for Sophie’s sake. However, as hard as they try and as much as they love Sophie, the fact that this was never the life they envisioned for themselves makes the situation even more complicated.
Yes, you likely guessed it; Life as We Know It is as formulaic as they come. Regardless of how much Holly and Messer despise each other after that first dreadful date, it’s quite obvious that romance will creep into the equation at some point. Then, of course, there are the other romantic comedy necessities, over-the-top friends with relationship advice, happy montages, candle lit baths and, without spoiling the ending, the most typical genre finale location of them all. Life as We Know It may be packed with cliché after cliché and a whole lot of Heigl putting on the same show she’s done in just about every other film she’s made, but there’s enough heart and even some originality to make it worth your while.
As much as Heigl’s uptight single professional shtick has been used and abused, there’s no denying that she does it well. While almost all of her solo jokes fall flat, when engaging in more situational humor, her natural performance makes her an instant winner and that’s what makes Duhamel a fantastic counterpart. Just as Heigl is the archetypal control freak sans boyfriend, Duhamel is the quintessential ladies man. Put two people who are good at what they do together and the result is a wonderfully organic relationship, which is quite necessary considering the drastic change in Messer and Holly’s situation throughout the film.
The two go from amusingly feuding to being terribly heartbroken after the passing of their friends. Their fights are comically of the brother and sister type, but it’s the heartfelt moments that really define Heigl and Duhamel’s performances. Why do these two do so much comedy when their sensitive sides are far more effective? Lucky for them, just about anything involving little Sophie is humorous. Poop on Heigl’s face? Not funny. Poop on Heigl’s face and a cute baby’s reaction? Hilarious. Taking the film’s funny side up another notch is the supporting cast. Most of them are banished to caricature neighbor roles, but they all do it so well and have such fun dialogue to work with that just about every neighborly get-together is a winner. However, the secondary character that gets the loudest laugh is certainly the pint-sized babysitter, Amy (Britt Flatmo).
Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson’s script has quite the number of flaws and director Greg Berlanti struggles to give the film forward momentum, but it’s really impossible to not enjoy a movie with two likable leads and an adorable baby to boot. Sometimes it’s just not about the nitty gritty technical discrepancies or even poor character development; if you’re looking for a feel good romantic comedy with a hint of depth, Life as We Know It will deliver.
By Perri Nemiroff