Review of Life as We Know It


"Life as We Know It" Looks at Life, Death, and Dirty Diapers

Rating: PG-13 (sexual material, language, and some drug content)

Length: 114 minutes

Release Date: October 8, 2010

Directed by: Greg Berlanti

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance

Stars: 4 out of 5

In "Life as We Know It," the typical romantic comedy formula takes some decided twists in the road to happily ever after. Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl, "27 Dresses," "The Ugly Truth") and Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel, "Transformers," "When in Rome") have a disastrous blind date set up by their friends Peter and Alison Novak. The two would have been perfectly content to part ways permanently, if not for a car accident that claims the Novaks' lives, leaving Holly and Eric ("Messer") the joint legal guardians of their one-year-old daughter, Sophie.

Although "Life as We Know It" exhibits a predictable plot from meeting to circumstance to falling in love, the movie provides an interesting look into the ways children alter the landscape of adults' lives. Holly and Messer, both young singles with busy, promising careers, must set aside their personal differences, adjust their priorities, and learn how to parent in a trial-by-fire fashion for Sophie's sake. The road is paved with spit-up and diaper jokes, but through it all, both struggle to maintain their own identities and interests.

Holly's love interest, Sam (Josh Lucas, "The Lincoln Lawyer"), is not only Messer's foil but Holly's lifeline to her previous existence. While Holly tries desperately to make things work with Sam, dubbed "Dr. Love" by Messer, the changes in her life ultimately leave the relationship untenable, and Holly realizes she may have more feelings for Messer than she ever imagined.

The script by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson falls flat at times, and the storyline offers little in the way of surprises or intrigue. However, under the guidance of director Greg Berlanti ("The Broken Hearts Club"), Heigl and Duhamel both deliver well-rounded, thoughtful performances as two ordinary people cast into an extraordinary situation. Heigl's comedic timing is as sharp as ever, and Duhamel offers a more nuanced performance than audiences have grown to expect from him.

Heigl and Duhamel have notable onscreen chemistry as well, and their performances alone make this a movie worth seeing. They interact with each other quite nicely, and their mutual attractiveness makes them delicious to watch. From a rocky beginning to a happy ending, these two actors appear to be having fun with the film and each other, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Like many previous romantic comedies, "Life as We Know It" tends to follow a certain formula, and the warm, fuzzy ending is the viewer's ultimate payoff. Still, for all the ways couples have been forced together in past movies, co-parenting an orphaned child ranks among the more unusual, and the subject matter itself provides an endless source of dialogue, jokes, and sentimental moments. From negotiating work schedules to bringing a screaming child to the job site to videotaping memorable moments and hearing first words, Holly and Messer have ample opportunity to grow as individuals, parents, and even, to their surprise, a family.

In classic movie fashion, the ending sequence includes a rushed, last-minute drive to the airport, a surprise reunion, and a mutual declaration of love. The film was nominated for two Teen Choice Awards: "Choice Movie: Romantic Comedy" and a "Choice Movie Actor: Romantic Comedy" nod for Duhamel, which speaks to the film's accessibility and success in the teen market. While it is not Academy Award quality by any means, "Life as We Know It" is at times a laugh riot, a tearjerker, and an everyday slice of life, enjoyable to the end.

Good movies don't always need to be great cinema. The persistent success of the romantic comedy as a genre proves this point handily. Effective romantic comedies are those that both women and men of all ages can enjoy, and "Life as We Know It" fits that bill nicely. Teens enjoy the romantic storyline and dynamic lead actors; 20- and 30-somethings can relate to the changes having children will inspire in parents' lives. Meanwhile, the movie's humor, spirit, well-drawn characters, and feel-good ending will touch any viewer's heart. Pick up "Life as We Know It" for the next movie night, grab some popcorn, and sit back and enjoy.