Basically, Life As We Know It is like any Romatic Comedy As We Know It.
Much – ok all – of this you’ll know if you saw the trailers. Two opposite personality types are fixed up by their friends. She is an uptight perfectionist who drives a smart car and despite being beautiful, doesn’t have all that many dates. He is a free-wheeling carefree man’s man who goes by his last name only, drives a motorcycle and sleeps with anything that moves. Their best friends fix them up, they hate each other, but circumstances eventually force them together and they fall in love.
The circumstances makeLife As We Know It different, and boy, are those circumstances mood killers.
Their friends die. OK, out of respect to the dead, we’ll label this a Romantic Dramedy. And in doing so, we’re showing a little more respect to the dead than the director Greg Berlanti does.
The friends don’t just die – they leave shared custody of their baby girl to Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Messer (Josh Duhamel). Holly and Messer are forced to move into their friends’ home and become parents to young Sophie. They fall in love and we see this makeshift family develop.
That’s just ludicrous. For the first fifteen minutes of the movie, we see Holly, Messer and the soon-to-be departed interact and hang out with each other at your various parties and holiday gatherings. As an audience, it’s hard to enjoy because we’ve seen the trailer and we know the hosts are going to leave their baby orphaned. Holly and Messer saw each other after their one and only date – they’re at all these parties. The parents see that Holly and Messer hate each other. Why would they leave them their baby and at the same time, upend their friends’ lives? These parties are packed with family, friends and neighbors. Not one of them could become guardians?
We do see Holly and Messer try to find other guardians for Sophie, and they rule them out in a comedic montage reminiscent of a speed dating scene in other rom-coms. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of scene, but again, they aren’t trying to find a babysitter here. They’re trying to find a permanent guardian for their dead friends’ orphaned baby.
Berlanti may have tried to address those thematic flaws in a longer movie, and there’s a feeling the details were edited out because they would kill the premise. Blink and you’ll miss Jean Smart (Designing Women) who may or may not be playing Holly’s mother. That’s not an exaggeration. She’s at the home after the funeral and shows up again at Thanksgiving and gives Holly a kind of “I’ll help you” kind of look. Then she’s gone, because, she might have helped and ruined everything. I didn’t see her when I skimmed the credits. Clearly, she was in the way.
Logic gets in the way often. After everyone clears out from the funeral, Sophie makes a mess in her diaper -- her first mess in her diaper. Holly and Messer have had her for at least a couple of days, and the issue of diaper changing hadn’t come up yet?
Scenes involving diaper changing, first steps and first words do end up kind of sweet and sometimes funny. Heigl and Duhamel make a cute couple and they work well together. Heigl has played this uptight character already (The Ugly Truth), but the responsibility of a baby grounds her a bit more and makes her more likable than in other films.
Duhamel proves here he has what it takes to be a romantic comedy leading man. The target audience will love him. He’s a good-looking guy, and the scenes where he carries Sophie around the grocery store and makes women around him swoon are meant just as much for the women in the audience as the ones in the produce section. Sure, he’s out for action, but the soft side Sophie brings out of him makes him very winning.
The women in the neighborhood love him too. They and their husbands are a funny ensemble of comedians you’ll recognize from different sketch comedy shows, sitcoms and I Love The 80s on VH-1 (the group includes Will Sasso, Jessica St. Clair and Melissa McCarthy of the new TV series Mike & Molly). Together and individually, they give us some funny stuff.
Charming people, some funny material – but let’s not forget – dead parents. Sorry to kill the mood again, but couldn’t the parents have been jerks who abandon the kid? OK, that’s not funny either, but at least it would explain their forcing Holly and Messer together. Or maybe the parents could have been anonymous? In something like Three Men & A Baby, the baby is left at the doorstep. We only know the Three Men and their Baby, so we root for them without having to interrupt the comedy with a funeral. It’s hard to enjoy Life As We Know It when a Death puts such a pall over everything.
Genre/s: Romance Drama
Release Date/s: October 8, 2010 (Showtimes & Tickets )
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production Company: Josephson Entertainment, Gold Circle Films, Village Roadshow Pictures
CAST & CREW:
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl, Christina Hendricks, Josh Lucas, Jean Smart
Directed By: Greg Berlanti
Written By: Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson
Produced By: Barry Josephson and Paul Brooks