Life as We Know It -- Film Review

An innocuous sitcom about two combative people trying to raise a child.

 

"Life as We Know It" could be a backdoor pilot for a TV sitcom about a man and woman struggling to raise a toddler who is not their own. Although wholly predictable in its every beat and featuring bland, unremarkable WASPs as romantic leads, "Life" is not without its charms.

Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel do make for very attractive leads while bringing plenty of vitality to thinly written roles. And the various twins who play the crucial third character, first as an infant and then a supercute 2-year-old girl, are coaxed into winning performances.

So Warner Bros., once the studio that flew the flag for macho-man movies, probably will see fair-to-middling coin opening weekend thanks to female viewers. But the film probably lacks staying power; its natural home is in home entertainment.

Like any good sitcom, the movie manages the neat trick of never having to change locations despite a substantial upheaval in the lives of three people each with a separate home when the story begins. A screenplay by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson imagines that a married couple, who die in a car accident, can somehow will their child, home and even mortgage payments to the child's two godparents, who are not married and indeed can barely stand each other.

So the movie runs through all the challenges of raising Sophie -- all that fine comedy involving diapers, sleep deprivation, crying fits and finicky eating -- with "parents" who only get to fall in love after reluctantly adopting a baby. No, that's not a spoiler; there's nowhere else for this movie to go.

The movie begins three years earlier with a blind date between Heigl's Holly and Duhamel's Messer, which probably wasn't necessary and certainly is a poor setup for the male character. Messer -- everyone calls him by his last name -- eventually gets established as a cad who rarely calls a girl after getting her in bed. But because this is a first date with an exceptionally good-looking woman, why does he act like such a jerk?

As with many movies with foregone conclusions for endings and not much story in between, "Life" drowns in montage sequences. There are montages to demonstrate the arch of the couple's mutual animosity, to show Sophie learning to walk and to show the couple redecorating the house to make it their own.

Director Greg Berlanti, whose background is, of course, in television, keeps things on an even keel without many spikes of either comedy or drama. Peripheral characters don't have much to do. A handsome pediatrician (John Lucas) is around to play a rival to Messer for Holly's affections, and a social worker (Sarah Burns) drops by as a threat to the couple's continued custody of Sophie.

Tech credits are pro if unexceptional.

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