Somewhere in Hollywood, there is a machine that pairs up famous actors for romantic comedies. It may or may not look like a Magic 8 ball. And like a Magic 8 ball, it sometimes gives you terrible advice. The theory is that two people who are attractive and famous will make a cute couple, but this is not always the case. Gerard Butler + Hillary Swank = cute. Katherine Heigl + James Marsden = cute. Gerard Butler + Katherine Heigl = dud. It’s weird how these things work. Anyway the latest pairing that the rom-com-o-matic generator has churned out is Katherine Heigl + Josh Duhamel. The story they’re in goes like this:
A single woman and a single man who can’t stand each other end up parenting a baby together when their mutual best friends die in a car accident.
The fact that there’s death right there in the premise might have you thinking this is a drama rather than a comedy, but it’s not. Life As We Know It is a romantic comedy. So of course you know that the two of them have to end up together in the end. That’s a given for the genre. So it’s the journey that’s the deciding factor. And I for one enjoyed getting there.
First, let me clarify that I am not a Katherine Heigl hater. I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity about her lately, and while I’m not her greatest fan, I can’t see what’s so objectionable. Sure, she’s a clone (she plays the same character all the time) but so is half of Hollywood. If you’re not unreasonably prejudiced toward her, you should have no problem with her in this movie. Having said that, though, she can’t hold a candle to Josh Duhamel. That boy knows how to smolder.
He looks at you and you think: “I’m going to spontaneously combust.”
Whereas if she looks at you, you think: “Suddenly I have the urge to clean my house.”
So Life As We Know It is an “opposites attract” type pairing, which is fair enough. It works in a lot of movies. The odd thing is that it wouldn’t have worked in this movie without the baby, which is exactly the scenario that director Greg Berlanti is trying to portray onscreen. Their characters, Holly Berensen and Eric Messer (usually known as Messer’ or ‘Mess’) were set up on a date by their mutual friends and it went horribly.
Get out of my Smart Car, guy who still wears baseball caps at 35.
The only obstacle, of course, is the fact that she already has parents. But this is a movie so whoops! There they go off a bridge.
The baby is really the key to everything, because she’s also the source of pretty much all the humor and conflict in the film. She’s a baby, so she’s not so much a character as an object for the other characters to react to. She cries, she poops, she gets into everything, and Holly and Messer have to deal with it. This is difficult enough for people who meant to have a baby, but Holly and Messer were singles who suddenly inherited a baby, a giant house, and their dead friends’ old lives.
Here are the dead friends. You may recognize Allison (Christina Hendricks) as YoSafBridge from Firefly. Peter (Hayes MacArthur) is a random bit player from TV who’s married to Ali Larter.
Holly and Messer’s career goals (Messer is a sports broadcaster and Holly owns a bakery) have to come second to the baby. Their personal lives (Messer is a player and Holly recently met a hunky doctor) have to come second to the baby. It’s a huge source of conflict and it’s all very believable.
Hello hunky doctor Sam (Josh Lucas) I live in a house with another man and we’re raising a baby that’s not ours… why are you running away?
The conflict and hilarity of raising a baby is so well captured that I would be very surprised if writers Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson didn’t have babies of their own. Everything they talk about is so true – the squeaky toys in the bathtub, the inane but oddly addictive baby-centric TV shows, the overcomplicated baby gear. Their writing actually reminds me quite a lot of the comic strip Baby Blues, which was started by two guys who had recently had babies (or rather, whose wives had recently had babies).
Parenthood: it’s like a free pass to dress like a hobo and have a house that looks like a hurricane blew through it
Newer romantic comedies have a tendency to go into turbo mode and focus on nothing but the main plot of the two characters getting together, but thankfully Life As We Know It isn’t like that. It’s more of a story of how two people’s lives were changed by a baby rather than the story of how they fell in love. So there’s more room for supporting characters, like the hilarious posse of neighbors in their new neighborhood.
Welcome to the neighborhood! We come bearing casseroles and horror stories.
This broader focus actually lets the audience bond with the characters better, because their whole lives are there onscreen. And a lot of people will be able to bond with Holly and Mess. People with babies will sympathize with them because their babies do almost the exact same things. Every female will go ‘awwwww’ at the sight of Josh Duhamel holding a baby.
It’s not fair: women with babies are avoided by men like they have the plague, but men with babies are superconducting chick magnets.
Even single males will sympathize because the characters are losing their carefree single lives (it will be something of a horror story to this subset). So I would recommend this movie to just about anyone. It’s funny, it’s cute, it’s true, and it’s a good time. You can’t ask for much more than that.