Life As We Know It is, on the surface, exactly the kind of formulaic romantic comedy we think we know all too well, but thanks to smart casting and sharp direction this story of a mismatched pair thrown together to parent an orphaned baby is really quite funny and heartfelt. With appealing performances from Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel, audiences are in for a great time at the movies. Life as We Know It should deliver steady box office for several weeks to come, although the real bounty could come later on DVD, when stay-at-home parents will catch up with it and revel in all the cutesy baby stuff thrown in here for laughs.
The script, from first time screenwriters Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson, takes a predictable premise and gives it surprising depth. Holly (Heigl), a would-be restaurateur, meets Eric (Duhamel), an up and coming sports director, for a blind date set up by their mutual, happily married friends, Allison (Christina Hendricks) and Peter (Hayes MacArthur). Their matchmakers have recently named this odd couple the godparents of their new baby girl, Sophie. The blind date between these two complete opposites is a complete disaster and should be the end of it, until tragedy strikes and Allison and Peter are killed in a car accident. Custody goes to her godparents who now have to find a way to parent a child they never expected and forge a temporary living partnership while basically hating each other. As they get accustomed to bringing up baby, with all the requisite sight gags and poop jokes one movie can handle, Holly takes up with Sophie's nice-guy pediatrician (Josh Lucas) and Eric continues to refuse to grow up. As this is a romantic comedy, complications arise and the pair soon start seeing things to like about one another, which finally leads to a conventional but satisfying conclusion.
The chief strengths here are Heigl and Duhamel who are terrific together. These two TV vets show how it's done by taking material that could have been overly sappy and one dimensional and giving it real style and grace. Duhamel in particular shines and proves he can be a formidable leading man in the right kind of vehicle. Heigl rescues herself from several recent mis-fires, including this summer's dreary Killers, to deliver a nuanced and touching turn as a woman whose life is turned inside out for the love of an unexpected bundle of joy. Director Greg Berlanti should be given credit for reigning in any mugging temptation his stars might have had and instead makes all of this work beautifully, turning Life As We Know It into a pretty wonderful RomCom.
Distributor: Warner Bros
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks, Hayes MacArthur.
Director: Greg Berlanti
Screenwriters: Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson
Producers: Barry Josephson and Paul Brooks
Rating: PG-13 for sexual material, some language and drug content.
Running Time: 112 min
Release date: October 8, 2010