Life As We Know It

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Laura Clifford 
Life As We Know It

Robin Clifford 

When their respective best friends fix them up on a blind date, Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl, "The Ugly Truth") and Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel, "Transformers," "Ramona and Beezus") seem so mismatched they don't even make it to the restaurant.  But after years of coexisting at family gatherings when Peter (Hayes MacArthur, "She's Out of My League") and Alison ("Mad Men's" Christina Hendricks) decide to get hitched, they're thrown together when tragedy strikes, leaving them as co-guardians of their friends' baby Sophie (the Clagett triplets).  It's the end of "Life As We Know It."

Laura:
Ian Deitchman & Kristin Rusk Robinson take an implausible yet unoriginal idea and put it through the usual romantic comedy tropes while Katherine Heigl, who has been a brittle film lead to date, stars.  The film is set against the type of lifestyle wealth usually seen in Nancy Meyer movies and not part of most people's experience.  But television producer Greg Berlanti ("Everwood," "Brothers & Sisters") has spun, if not a silk purse, at least a serviceable bag out of humdrum ingredients, creating a piece of fluffy entertainment that's not a chore to sit through.  Heigl exhibits some vulnerability, Duhamel some charm and the baby some life lessons for singletons.  It's all a bit pat, but it's cute, especially considering the state of the genre.

The moment Holly, dressed to the nines, opens her apartment door to the cap-wearing, stubbled Messer, we know their date is a bad idea even before Messer accepts a booty call in Holly's Smart Car (his motorcycle having been rejected as transportation).  A montage, a device Berlanti employs frequently, shows the two at engagement parties, the wedding and various other Peter/Alison events right on up through Sophie's first birthday, catered by Holly.  She owns Fraiche, a bakery/cafe that's just a little downscaled from the one Meryl Streep ruled in "It's Complicated," and flirts with a regular, Sam (Josh Lucas, "Hulk," "Glory Road"), a baby doctor (how convenient!) who reciprocates.  Messer's an unrepentant ladies man who works as a technical director for Atlanta Hawks basketball television broadcasts, a bachelor's dream existence.

After the car crash which takes their friends, Holly tries to wrest Sophie back from Child Protection Services.  The next day a lawyer from Peter's firm informs them of their guardianship status.  They can stay in their friends' spacious suburban home if they agree to raise Sophie as the mortgage has been taken care of.  And so, the two, no longer arch enemies but still opposites, decide to try the right thing. Diaper duty, late night crying and job and scheduling pressures ensue as each tries to live their own life. A trio of visits from a CPS representative, Janine Groff (Sarah Burns, "Going the Distance"), always happen at the worst possible time, but Janine, who advises them not to get romantically involved, is rooting for their success.

So, what makes "Life As We Know It" bearable?  It's the little things, like the trio of couples who project nothing but suburban horror to the two singles they take under their wing, led by DeeDee (Melissa McCarthy, TV's "Mike and Molly"), a baby machine who uses her husband Scott (Andrew Daly, HBO's "Eastbound & Down") like an indentured servant, or the way Messer uses Radiohead's "Creep" as a lullaby.  There's the neighborhood 'Baby Whisperer,' who turns out to be tweener Amy (Britt Flatmo), a practical girl who understands the soothing effects of an oven hood fan.  Holly and Messer's relationship mutates into something more supportive and friendly pretty naturally - the film's funniest scene involves some pot brownies and Wiggles video - and there are plenty of cute baby reaction shots. Of course, a huge obstacle comes up which will take one of them out of the picture for the obvious realization to occur, and the potential partner who's shunted aside is way too perfect and accommodating, but this will never be mistaken for real life.  Still, every now and then, like when Holly unearths a bit of homevid showing tension between Peter and Alison, something that feels real sneaks in.

Director of photography Andrew Dunn ("Miss Potter," "Extraordinary Measures") has a tendency to overlight his scenes and exteriors don't ever provide a real sense of place - it's Atlanta as Anywhere, USA.  There are no real standouts in the cast, although Reggie Lee ("Drag Me to Hell") has an air of authenticity as Messer's boss.  Jean Smart, a good physical match with Heigl, i utterly wasted in a practically non verbal role as Holly's mom.

"Life As We Know It" may be pabulum, but it's sprinkled with enough sugar to make it go down easy.  It'll do for a girls' night out.

C+

Robin:
Robin did not see this film.
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