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Life As We Know It

Leads make this otherwise trite rom-com mildly entertaining

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2009:10:22 12:23:23

Man of the House: Duhamel has this daddy daycare thing down.

Life As We Know It

Directed by Greg Berlanti

Opens Oct. 8.

If two clichés had a baby, it’d look like Greg Berlanti’s Life As We Know It, a romantic comedy that keeps the audience guessing at nothing more than when they’ll let that poor baby actor take a break from crying. A not-cute meet-up opens the movie when a disastrous blind date pairing Holly (Katherine Heigl) with Messer (Josh Duhamel), set up by their best friends Alison (Christina Hendricks) and Peter Novak (Hayes MacArthur), ends before dinner with her yelling at him, “Get out of my car—get out of my smart car!”

Although beer-drinking, sports-TV tech/pussy wagon Messer and bakery owner Holly don’t make a love connection, their relationship with Alison and Peter keeps them in constant, playful contact with each other, driven by loads of antagonistic sexual tension. And, because the Novaks make them “godparents” to their daughter, they become legal guardians to 1-year-old Sophie (played by the adorable strawberry blond Clagett triplets: Alexis, Brynn, and Brooke from Frederick, MD) when Alison and Peter die in a car crash.

Neither Holly nor Messer jump at the chance to co-parent—and live in the Novaks’ huge house in the San Francisco suburbs, hello—and silliness immediately arrives on the heels of tragedy with the hapless, attractive couple yelling at each other a whole hell of a lot as they powder, shower, and attempt to take care of a crying toddler.

A seriously crying toddler. This poor child cries in her highchair as Holly feeds her handmade baby food that gets spit out, cries sitting on the couch as Messer watches sports when she wants The Wiggles, cries when she’s over-tired because her fake parents keep yelling. The chemistry between Heigl and Duhamel gives this movie energy, and it’s nice to see two adults go at each other with such passion, but placing Sophie in the middle just feels unfair.

Did the movie have to keep her crying through half of her screen time? Her parents die, her caretakers need to “think” about keeping her, and she ends up with a fever twice—once with a slight belly button hernia and then a urinary tract infection—in order to introduce Holly to hot Dr. Sam (Josh Lucas), but come on. Actually, a crying child and overwhelmed parents who don’t know what the hell they are doing is probably the most original part of this story, which pits a playboy and a career woman against each other like many rom-coms—many of which feature Heigl playing the same sort of character.

Which is too bad, because Heigl’s height and figure makes her look, refreshingly, like a real adult woman. The writing here, though, makes her Holly look like a woman determined to have a husband and kid even though she never once says that she does. Meanwhile, in guysville, Messer says a million times he doesn’t want to change his lifestyle. Duhamel is almost a throwback to the funny “man” after the recent spat of stoner “boy” main characters (think: Apatow males) and, in lieu of nothing, he is an aggressive kisser, so that’s nice. Life isn’t the worst of the genre, but the sobbing baby needed a nap and Hendricks needed more screen time—her Alison is pleasantly nothing like Mad Men's Joan.