Life As We Know It contains what has to be the most unappetizing setup in romantic comedy history. Usually people bump carts at the grocery store or trip over each other on a New York City street. It’s what Ebert calls the “Meet Cute.” We have the two young and single lookers, but what happens to bring them together is so sad and unbelievable that the film never recovers. To ask us to laugh at amateur slapstick while throwing melodrama involving a serious situation in our face is insulting and distasteful, and it doesn’t work.
As the film opens, Holly (Heigl) and Eric (Duhamel) are heading out on a blind date, setup by their mutual friends, Peter (Hayes MacArthur) and Alison (Christina Hendricks). Holly is a perfectionist baker, while Eric is more of a womanizing free spirit. The date doesn’t make it far, as the two get in an argument before even starting the car at Holly’s place. Holly vows to never see him again. Fast forward three years and she’s seeing him plenty, as they both continue to attend events hosted by Peter and Alison. One night, tragedy strikes. Peter and Alison are killed in a car accident, leaving behind a now-orphaned child. Their will dictates that Holly and Eric receive custody of the child, so the two must now find a way to make it work.
First off, how irresponsible is it that a couple writes their friends into their will as the legal guardians of their child in the event of an accident and not even tells them? To all friends: If I’m in your will as a guardian for your child, let me know! It’s kind of a big deal. This is the kind of film that sidesteps all logic and instead expects us to laugh at the usual stuff: puking babies, pot brownies, ill-timed visits from the social worker, and weird neighbors who most people would never talk to, let alone invite over for Thanksgiving. It dilutes the melodrama, which is applied in thick strokes often, to a mere annoyance as we watch a little girl grow up with two buffoons.
Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel do what they can with this flimsy material, both seeming more convincing early on when they hate each other than later when they’re scripted to become a legitimate couple. There’s little in the way of interesting supporting work, including Josh Lucas, who completely mails it in as a foil love interest for Holly. He must have read the script.
It’s difficult to think of another genre that routinely outputs as much junk as the contemporary romantic comedy. It has been a year to forget with the likes of this, When in Rome, and You Again. Life As We Know It tries to inject real-life tragedy and drama to the standard formula, but it’s just too much as we’re asked to shake off the catastrophic first fifteen minutes and just sit back and take in the slapstick. It’s awkward and weird. Audiences aren’t as dumb as writers in this genre think, and we should demand better.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 112 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual material, language and some drug content.
Theatrical Release: October 8, 2010
Directed by: Greg Berlanti
Written by: Ian Deitchman & Kristin Rusk Robinson.
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Hayes MacArthur, Christina Hendricks