The flick opens with a scene that introduces our main characters, who could’ve been lifted from any romantic comedy in the last two decades. We meet Holly Berenson (Heigl), a no-nonsense caterer who is upset that her date is an hour late. When laid back Eric Messer (Duhamel) finally shows up, he’s the polar opposite of someone she would find attractive. They’ve been set up by Peter and Alison (Hayes MacArthur and Christina Hendricks), their mutual best friends, but the night ends disastrously after only a few minutes.
They do have something else in common: their love for Peter and Alison’s daughter, Sophie, so they resign themselves to being civil toward one another at social functions for the sake of their friends. But Holly and Messer find themselves in a much more personal relationship after Peter and Alison are killed in a car accident. Unbeknownst to either of them, their friends named the mismatched pair as the guardians for their only child.
After exhausting every other alternative, the shell-shocked duo is thrown headfirst into raising a child while simultaneously mourning their friends and juggling their careers. What follows is scene after scene of Holly and Messer scratching their heads over what Sophie can eat and making faces at the deposits she makes in her diapers. Nothing that hasn’t been done before (in every movie about babies ever made), but those who take comfort in the familiar will find plenty to laugh about and get misty over.
“Life As We Know It” relies way too much on familiar genre tropes. You’ve got the high-maintenance businesswoman/easygoing womanizer pairing; there’s the almost perfect love interest (Josh Lucas) whose sole reason for existence is to be the better man and bow out at the end; it even has the good ol’ “will he/she make it to the airport in time to declare his/her love?” sequence. So I could understand if more cynical viewers roll their eyes and dismiss it outright.
This is especially true considering that Heigl basically plays a slight variation on the same character she always does, like some kind of Jennifer Aniston 2.0. However, I would argue (not forcefully, mind you) that certain aspects of the movie are halfway entertaining. The familiarity of Heigl’s character works in her favor here; she starts off as highly unlikeable, but eventually grew on me as I saw how well she balanced out Messer’s mellow attitude.
Speaking of, Duhamel is also quite good. Those who’ve only seen him in the “Transformers” flicks or often confuse him with Timothy Olyphant (seriously, they could be twins) might be pleased to see him distinguishing himself as a successful romantic lead. I’m guessing he might also be the reason for Heigl coming across somewhat sympathetically, since her previous costars weren’t able to pull it off.
The chemistry between Heigl and Duhamel partially makes up for an uncreative screenplay by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson, something director Greg Berlanti seems to be aware of. He sets up all the plot elements within the first half hour, kind of like he’s admitting we all know how it’s going to turn out anyway, so might as well focus on the characters instead. It’s a decision that ultimately salvages the movie.
I also wish the film would’ve devoted more time to the nosy neighbors played by Melissa McCarthy, Andrew Daley, Rob Huebel and others instead of a pointless subplot about Sophie’s social worker. But I won’t complain too much since Sarah Burns does what she can to make the thankless role enjoyable.
“Life As We Know It” is exactly what the previews suggest, and sometimes that’s okay. It wouldn’t ordinarily be my cup of tea. But as luck would have it, I found it very relatable all of a sudden.
“Life As We Know It” is rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and some drug content.
Quick Take: “Life As We Know It” relies way too much on familiar genre tropes, but surprisingly decent work from Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel keep things halfway entertaining.