Friday, October 8, 2010

Predictable "Life as We Know It" better than you think


Life as We Know It (2010) 
113 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B -


Yes, Katherine Heigl is beginning to develop her own genre it seems. In "Life as We Know It," Heigl's Holly and Josh Duhamel's Messer are set up on a blind date by their mutual best friends, but their date ends before it actually starts. She's a type-A bakery owner (are you shocked?) and he's a caddish sports technical director, and they can't stand one another. How can we get these clashing personalities together? Well, after tragedy strikes when their best friends (Christina Hendricks, Hayes MacArthur) are killed in a car accident, Holly and Messer are named as shared legal guardians of the friends' one-year-old daughter. Can they make it work? 

Cute but predictable, "Life as We Know It" handles the drama and newfound parenthood sincerely, but drags its feet to an obvious rom-com conclusion, before a dash-to-the-airport climax. Director Greg Berlanti's TV credits really explains why a lot of scenes are overlit like a sitcom, and he's a real sucker for “aww” baby montages to a poppy soundtrack. And yes, there are a few baby poo and puke jokes, and both characters do get their respective bits of annoying, irresponsible business: Holly, drunk on a bottle of wine, doesn't know when to shut up, just before a social worker makes an unannounced visit, and Messer leaves the baby with a taxi driver while he works. But Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson's script, with apt comparisons to "Mr. Mom," "Baby Boom," "Mostly Martha," and "Raising Helen," for such a contrived premise make Holly and Messer feel more like real people than just a shrew in need of taming and a frat-boy man with a lot of growing up to do. 

Heigl and Duhamel are charming and share some sexual chemistry, she being more likable and less of a shrill pain in the rump (her Holly even owning up to being “a bit of a control freak”). This is one of her better vehicles. The supporting cast is also bright, even if they have less to do than the stars. Josh Lucas has a thankless role as “the other guy,” a handsome doctor that keeps Holly's bakery in business, and Jean Smart is criminally wasted as Holly's mom in a mostly non-verbal part. Otherwise, Melissa McCarthy spins some funny, southern charm out of a neighbor role, and Sarah Burns always steals the show, here as the social worker. 

Rest assured, nobody is arbitrarily clumsy or falling down like a slapstick stuntman in this one, so as we know it you don't have to throw crap-loaded Pampers at "Life as We Know It." 

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