REVIEW: Life as We Know It [2010]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 114 minutes | Release Date: October 8th, 2010 (USA)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director(s): Greg Berlanti
Writer(s): Ian Deitchman & Kristin Rusk Robinson

“Don’t let any fat grown-ups in when the kids are inside”

Long-time television producer Greg Berlanti’s first directorial wide release, Life as We Know It, had two strikes against it before I even popped in the DVD. To begin with, the film was a romantic comedy in the vein of countless others—two people who hate each other are brought together by circumstances out of their control and slowly fall in love. And while the premise here is equal parts horrible in the fact someone thought it would be a good set-up for a lighthearted romance and also just by how tragic the event changing our leads’ lives, it worked. Don’t tell me how, but having it so that a baby—parents killed in a car crash and willed to her godparents—is the glue to bring pretty boy bachelor Messer (Josh Duhamel) and intelligent entrepreneur Holly (Katherine Heigl) together deceives the audience into thinking its cheap tug at the heartstrings is actually a plausible device to play matchmaker. Because we all have the cruelty to play with a newborn’s life as it hinges on bringing together two adults who despise one another.

And I’ve given away the second strike. Yes, it’s Heigl. Forget about the saccharine, lowest common denominator fare she has clutched onto post-“Grey’s Anatomy”, I just don’t really find her all that appealing, even when thrust into a Judd Apatow flick. So, no one was surprised more than I to find her pitch perfect in this role. Playing the dreamer of an idyllic white picket fence and chubby toddlers running around the front yard, she has a bit of an ego and refuses to settle. We see this countless times before the opening credits finish, watching the tragedy that is a blind date with her future child-raising teammate and then the three years until best friend Alison’s (Christina Hendricks) little Sophie turns one, littered with other set-ups barely making it past hello before her sourpuss rears its head, signifying it was back to the drawing board for Mr. Wonderful. She isn’t quite frigid—always flustered by the cute doctor who frequents her bakery, (Josh Lucas)—but you know there will need to be some warming up before any love connection can occur.

Who better to thaw fantasy and give her a little spontaneity than Duhamel’s flirty sarcasm? Best friend to Sophie’s father since high school, he is the exact opposite of everything Heigl’s Holly believes in. There is a full-time job as an NBA television producer, but besides that—or perhaps in spite of that since working in sports could be inferred as a boyish occupation—his days of frat life have never ceased. He rides a motorcycle, has no shame in taking a booty call while on a date, and never leaves home without his trademark St. Louis Blues cap. The best and funniest example of his immaturity is watching the home video footage from Alison and Peter’s wedding and seeing him making out with a waitress while Holly attempts to give her Maid of Honor speech. It doesn’t get better as the two constantly clash at every event concerning Sophie, mocking and hitting while their friends laugh in response, both grateful the two continue to be there for them and their daughter. It’s a kindhearted look serving as the basis to give the odd pair custody of their child, never having the chance to let them know before the wish needed to be fulfilled.

The film itself could be as bad as most of its compatriots, and maybe I was just in a good mood to be accessible to its charms, but I found myself pulling for this makeshift family. I wanted the social worker assigned to their case, (Sarah Burns), to be proven wrong because when you see two people in love with a child, you simply hope it has the good fortune to never have to see them leave. But it isn’t Heigl’s motherly desires that cinch this outlook, her character is very two-dimensional and never really changes from start to finish. No, it is Duhamel who takes over the movie and captivates. He is the one who evolves into a father and a lover; he becomes the person both Holly and Sophie needs. We watch him wrestle with decisions his bachelor life wouldn’t have experienced since career was everything. So, when he escapes from the house, says things he immediately regrets, and struggles with remembering he was no longer only supporting himself, you see the human growth. It doesn’t hurt either that he’s surrounded by such unrealized, one-dimensional supporting players in a disappointing Will Sasso, Melissa McCarthy—foreshadowing her Bridesmaids role—and Andrew Daly.

There are a few funny sequences thrown in too, so don’t go thinking I somehow just had a two-hour lapse of my usual cynicism in order to enjoy contrived love onscreen. Faizon Love is involved in one of the best as Duhamel’s cab driver turned babysitter, I did enjoy the somewhat blunt joke of the neighborhood women fawning over the newly made father—including the more feminine half of Bill Brochtrup and Rob Huebel’s coupling—and the scripting of Holly and Messer’s relationship is chock full of smirk inducing oneliners. There are the sweet moments too such as an isolated dinner in the in-progress dining area of Heigl’s Fraiche restaurant, the absolute glee in raising this baby and seeing her accomplish the regular checklist of milestones like walking, and the absolute fright and love shown when the little girl runs a fever, the true colors of both parents shining through. If I was to give it any more praise I’d conclude by stating it’s a cutely warm and fuzzy movie that never attempts to be more than it is meant to be and sometimes that can be enough.

[1] (L-r) JOSH DUHAMEL as Eric Messer, holding Sophie, and KATHERINE HEIGL as Holly Berenson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ romantic comedy ‘LIFE AS WE KNOW IT,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Peter Iovino
[2] (L-r) HAYES MacARTHUR as Peter Novak, KATHERINE HEIGL as Holly Berenson, Sophie, JOSH DUHAMEL as Eric Messer and CHRISTINA HENDRICKS as Alison Novak in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ romantic comedy ‘LIFE AS WE KNOW IT,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Peter Iovino
[3] (L-r) JOSH DUHAMEL as Eric Messer with Sophie in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ romantic comedy ‘LIFE AS WE KNOW IT,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Peter Iovino

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