Katherine Heigl as Holly Berenson
Josh Duhamel as Eric Messer
Josh Lucas as Sam
Alexis, Brynn and Brooke Clagett as Sophie
Hayes MacArthur as Peter Novak
Christina Hendricks as Alison Novack
Sarah Burns as Janine Groff
Jessica St. Clair as Beth
Britt Flatmo as Amy
Rob Huebel as Ted
Melissa McCarthy as DeeDee
DeRay Davis as Lonnie
Kumail Nanjiani as Simon
Andrew Daly as Scott
Bill Brochtrup as Gary
Will Sasso as Josh
Majandra Delfino as Jenna
Directed by Greg Berlanti
After being set up on a bad blind date years earlier, Holly Berenson and Eric Messer (Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel) find themselves thrown together once more when the friends who tried to set them up request they be the guardians of their baby daughter Sophie if something ever happens to them. When something does happen to them, Holly and Eric find themselves having to share a house and get along for the sake of Sophie, putting their own lives on hold in the process.
As the “meet cute” romantic comedy desperately tries to keep itself from falling over the precipice of formula redundancy, here’s a comedy that does a good deal in trying to salvage the genre by combining the typical “From Harry Met Sally” influences with something closer to “Parenthood.” (The Ron Howard movie, not the television show.)
It opens with a blind date between two mismatched individuals, Holly and “Messer” (as he likes being called) and though it goes horribly wrong, it’s thankfully not drawn out or overplayed before an opening title montage showing the duo’s relationship with the mutual friends Peter and Allison (Hayes MacArthur and Christina Hendricks), who set them up in the first place. This sequence is more to set up the relationship between the four of them as well as to establish Holly’s ongoing dislike of “Messer,” a womanizer who is constantly trying to get women into bed with his charm and good looks. It’s not long before half that equation is removed in a deadly car crash, and while one would think a comedy would have a hard time recovering after killing off two of its characters in the first 15 minutes and dealing with the emotions surrounding that, there’s enough inherent humor in putting a baby in the care of inept adults that it doesn’t remain in a down mood for long.
While both Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel have done their share to add to the number of abhorrent “meet cute” rom-coms in recent years, somehow putting them together negates most of their most annoying treats, creating a pairing that’s indeed greater than the sum of its two parts. They’re a good-looking duo indeed, but they both do a fine job with everything required of their roles, which often involves them playing the straight man (or lady) to a baby, because the triplets playing Sophie are so adorable they easily steal scenes from their guardians with just a look or a smile. Of course, having a baby in a movie always guarantees a lot of the humor will involve poop and or baby vomit, and that’s certainly the case here, but it doesn’t just rely on that for laughs.
Instead, it’s filled with a large cast of supporting characters who show up just long enough to make a comedic impact before giving the stage back to Heigl and Duhamel, the best of them being the nosey neighbors who show up to help the unwitting couple deal with the loss of their friends. These scenes allow for some great lines from some of the finest TV sketch and improvisational comics like Melissa McCarthy, Andrew Daly and Will Sasso. Sarah Barnes makes the most of her role as a caseworker allowing her to have a great third act callback, and Faizon Love’s appearance as a babysitting cab driver halfway through the movie is funny enough to shake things up.
Much of the film’s success has to be credited to director Greg Berlanti, who has strong commercial sensibilities and a great taste in music, as seen by the choice in soundtrack tracks including a number of pleasant Leonard Cohen and Elvis Costello covers. One gets the impression he’s very conscious of the challenges of keeping high concept material like this from getting too cheesy, juggling so many characters while always keeping the focus on the three main characters. In that sense, the movie owes more to the films of Judd Apatow than it does to those of Garry Marshall without veering into the fratboy humor.
Eventually, the respective careers of each of the duo starts to get in the way of them fulfilling their obligations to Sophie, while Holly starts to get into a serious relationship with a pediatrician, played by Josh Lucas. This leads to the expected friction and a separation that clearly needs to be resolved by movie’s end. By that point, the movie is already just too long and as it keeps going, it just becomes more and more predictable, as much as Berlanti tries to avoid some of the normal clichés by giving them a twist. It also gets much harder to maintain the laughs as things start to get more serious, which leads to an erratic third act. Fortunately, things end in a satisfying enough way, and though it’s the most obvious ending, it does allow you to leave the theater feeling as if you’ve watched something that isn’t just a cookie-cutter rehash of movies you’ve seen before.
The Bottom Line:
Will “Life As We Know It” change your life as you know it? No, probably not, but for a couple hours, it will at least give you a smile and a chuckle or two and a good deal of pure unadulterated entertainment value for your money. Overall, it’s a sweet and warm comedy that always brings its focus back to the laughs even when dealing with very real and serious relationship issues.