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  Life As We Know It Having it all, even if you don't want it
Year: 2010
Director: Greg Berlanti
Stars: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Melissa McCarthy, Hayes McArthur, Christina Hendricks, Jessica St. Clair, Sarah Burns, Faizon Love, Will Sasso, DeRay Davis, Alexis Clagett, Brynn Clagett, Brooke Clagett
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: One disastrous blind date is all it takes for Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl) and Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel) to know they never want to see each other again. Which proves impossible after their best friends, Peter (Hayes McArthur) and Alison (Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks) get married and have a baby. Holly and Messer, as he likes to be called, are reluctantly roped into every event in baby Sophie’s life, fighting furiously whenever they meet. Away from each other, each leads a contented life. Holly runs a successful bakery where she harbours a crush on dishy doctor Sam (Josh Lucas) who drops by for his daily sandwich. Messer has his dream job filming live basketball games and beds a succession of beautiful women almost every week. Everything changes when a car crash kills Peter and Alison. Shocked and dismayed, Holly and Messer learn they are now Sophie’s guardians and, in accordance with their friends’ wishes, must raise her together in the same house.

Formulaic Hollywood movies, especially romantic comedies, typically get a bad rap from discerning cinefiles. But sometimes a well-oiled formula can prove the perfect prescription to chase those blues away. Life as We Know It offers very few surprises, but delivers almost two hours in the company of some engaging characters and leaves us with a benevolent view of a world where, once in a while, something good can arise from a horrible situation. To quote Paul McCartney: what’s wrong with that, I’d like to know? Written by Ian Deitchman and Kristen Rusk Robinson, the film’s central joke is what usually proves the normal route of romance - e.g. love-marriage-family - is thrown completely askew as our singleton heroes struggle to adjust their lives around little Sophie. Or as Messer puts it, amusingly, a lifetime of practicing safe sex and he still ends up with a kid.

Right off the bat we can guess, after some humorous mishaps, Holly and Messer will make a go of it raising Sophie and fall for each other along the way, but director Greg Berlanti - a prolific television writer-producer on soapy dramas from Everwood to Brothers & Sisters, though also adept at superhero affairs such as the series No Ordinary Family and movies Green Lantern (2011) and Wrath of the Titans (2012) - throws a few interesting curveballs. For one thing, for all his reluctance, the seemingly feckless Messer proves more adept at child-rearing than neurotic control freak Holly, while Sam never lapses lazily into a stock jerk romantic rival and proves a kindly and invaluable ally to both parties. As per most Katherine Heigl movies, this wears its “chick flick” credentials like a badge of honour, as we follow her attempts to “have it all”, raise a baby, become a successful businesswoman and choose between two Hollywood heartthrobs named Josh. Berlanti clearly knows who his target audience are given it is the affable Duhamel, not Heigl, who is cast as eye-candy in a running gag wherein everyone from the perky next-door-neighbour (Melissa McCarthy, recently Oscar-nominated for Bridesmaids (2011)), the gay couple across the street, and the sweet little babysitter (Jessica St. Clair) go ga-ga over handsome Messer.

Some of the humour is a little strained, notably an interminable sequence where Messer leaves Sophie in the care of a hapless cab driver (Faizon Love) while he covers a basketball game. However, all the old reliable gags about dirty diapers, sleepless nights, temper tantrums and growing disturbingly used to watching nothing but kids’ shows on television, still hit their mark and will strike a chord with anyone experienced in child care. Especially amusing is Holly and Messer’s ongoing relationship with child services officer Janine (Sarah Burns) who only ever arrives at the worst possible moments, first after Holly drowns her sorrows in a bottle of red wine then later after the couple get stoned on a batch of marijuana-laced brownies. Though lighthearted, the film still stresses the emotional toll wrought by sacrificing one’s dreams for the sake of your child, as more than once each character considers walking away. Both Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel imbue their characters with easygoing affability and it helps that young Sophie, played by triplets Alexis Clagett, Brooke Clagett and Brynn Clagett, is especially adorable.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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