Movie review: 'Life As We Know It' is a bore

Dana Barbuto

A horrid year for romantic comedies just got worse with “Life As We Know It.” While perennial rom-com queen Katherine Heigl oozes charisma, “Life” is too weighed down with cookie-cutter characters, a trite plot and a beyond-predictable script from newbie writers Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson to command your attention. True to the genre, they thrust two opposites into an unlikely romance. They seduce each other with insults. They encounter obstacles. Comedy ensues. There’s a race to the airport. They live happily ever after.

In this case it is Heigl’s singleton career gal, Holly, linked up with perennial bachelor and womanizer, Messer (Josh Duhamel, “Transformers”). Both, not so coincidentally, are godparents to their friends’ baby daughter, who they take custody of after the parents (Christina Hendricks and Hayes MacArthur) die in a car crash. You think that’s too heavy a premise for a romantic comedy? Don’t worry, the grief is so neatly glossed over that by the end of the movie, you’re like, “What? Someone died?”

Director Greg Berlanti – a longtime TV producer (“Brothers & Sisters,” “Deadwood”) – buries the heavy stuff – so to speak – under a pile of dirty diapers and confectionary baby cliches. You know the ones: poopy pants, spit-up carrots, feeding foibles, late-night meltdowns, inconsolable crying, technical battles with baby carriers and strollers, and so on. If those things don’t make you laugh, don’t worry, there are plenty of other occasions when the baby will be dropped, left in the care of a burly cab driver and otherwise nearly abused for the comic enjoyment of moviegoers. After all, that’s Hollywood’s take on what happens when parenthood is thrust upon the unsuspecting. Just look up “Raising Helen” or “Baby Boom.”

You can bet that none of this is easy for either Holly or Messer. They live in their dead friends’ home and find striking a balance between their old carefree lifestyle and their newly acquired parenting duty is tough work. They face challenges professionally. She wants to expand her restaurant and he wants to be promoted to television sports director. Both find there’s no time for work, dating and raising Sophie. These themes are far more interesting than the overused child-rearing stereotypes. Berlanti isn’t throwing anything new our way, including the nice-guy doctor (Josh Lucas) who steps aside so Holly can follow her heart; and the Greek chorus of colorful neighbors, cheering the new parents along. Berlanti turns his camera on everything you’d expect to happen rather than try to turn the genre on its head. That’s because Hollywood hasn’t evolved beyond thinking all women are useless nincompoops that just want a man and a baby, even if the method to achieve those is unconventional.

Cute was the word being thrown around after the screening I attended. If by “cute,” they mean the Claggett triplets, who play baby Sophie, then they are right on target. Or if by “cute” they mean Duhamel, I’ll buy that, too. He and Heigl (“Knocked Up”) are quite charming together in the way two incredibly gorgeous people are expected to be. Their chemistry makes “Life” watchable even if the film is forgettable.

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LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (PG-13 for sexual material, language and some drug content.) Cast includes Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel. 1.5 stars out of 4.