This has been a very bad year for the romantic comedy, with film after film flopping at the box office. It seems that the genre of cute star-crossed couples has just about run its course. Though in Hollywood, hope of that big score keeps the flicks coming down the pike. The latest is Life as We Know It, a film with a bitter little pill mixed in the subplot.
The film starts with a date that goes from bad to worse in a few seconds. Bakery owner Holly (Katherine Heigl) and NBA technical director Messer (Josh Duhamel) are on a date that doesn’t even make it out the driveway. These two have nothing in common except two mutual friends. We get a slow montage of the life where the two friends get married and have a baby Sophie. Tragedy strikes soon and little Sophie, at barely one, is orphaned.
Then we come to the major beat of the film. The deceased couple had decided that in the event of both parents dying, Holly and Messer are to take care of Sophie in their house. This comes as a shock to both of them, neither wanting to give up their lives to co-raise a baby. The first idea is to find someone else in either family to take over this job. When they realize that nobody else is suitable, they bite the bullet and agree to move into the house.
Then the nightmare of parenting becomes apparent. We get all the basic Kid Rearing 101 jokes about diapers and fussy eating. There is using Sophie by Messer to pick-up women at the supermarket. As Holly and Messer bond everyone in the audience knows where this is heading, the joy of the film is the ride to the inevitable.
Director Greg Berlanti does a strong job behind the helm of Life as We Know It, especially with the kids. The best acting was done by the triplets that played Sophie. He finds all the cute shots for the tyke, giving a strong personality to her. It was once said in Hollywood never to work with dogs or children because they steal the spotlight. This film proves the axiom true again.
Katherine Heigl plays yet another variation of the same character she has been putting on the Silver Screen for the last few years. She never takes a chance and this is just another role just like the last ones. For once, I’d like to see her do something with challenge rather than be another Julia Roberts/Meg Ryan. She does a nice job with the material, but we’ve been to this trough one too many times before.
Josh Duhamel is our rogue as Messer. He’s the carefree bachelor who instantly becomes a father. It is not a role he wants nor craves. As he bonds with Sophie, he slowly begins to realize what is actually meaningful and that there is something more important than himself in the world.
Josh Lucas plays the complication in their lives as Dr. Sam, Sophie’s baby doctor. It is not much of a role, just an excuse to place a choice actor in the picture. Everyone knows who will eventually end up with whom.
I was expecting the worst with Life as We Know It and was pleasantly surprised by how heartfelt it was. If you have seen the trailer, you have seen a good portion of the finished flick. Here is the deal with the romantic comedy—it is a journey. One knows the ending destination, it is the joy of the ride that makes the experience. This film is a sweet little distraction, a refreshing bit of fluff in the first wave of Oscar-pushing films. This one is never going to win an Academy Award, but it will win the hearts of the patrons.