Life as We Know It isn’t so much a movie as it is a social experiment. It proves, through extensive mixture of film formulas, that you can make two people who absolutely hate each other fall madly in love with one another as long as you trap them in a house with a baby.
The movie may drag more than it entertains, but at least it’s aware of the universal truth that despite common wisdom, babies bring parents closer together rather than push them apart. Raising a child is like being thrown into an insane reality show in which contestants are faced with inhumane challenges to the body and soul, driven together in moments of constant crisis and chronic sleep deprivation. It’s somewhat like what drew Boston Rob and Amber together in Survivor.
Any reality show setup would be more convincing than the sloppy plotting that turns bitter enemies Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Eric (Josh Duhamel) into parents of their mutual best friends’ 1-year-old girl. Following a fatal car crash suffered by the infants’ parents, a lawyer tells the protagonists that they must live together in their deceased pals’ mansion and raise their child together.
This part of the film highlighted a little-known fact about last wills and testaments: Whatever you put in there, no matter how stupid and harmful to others, it becomes law. You can will your best friend to have to jump on one leg for 25 years after you die, and he has to do it. You can will the Air Force to conduct a bombing raid on the Moon, and they have to go through with it or answer to the Make a Wish Foundation. You can’t will the Cubs to win the World Series though, because some things are just impossible.
I nearly sobbed at the funeral scene, sullen in the knowledge that I’d spend the next 90-plus minutes watching a painfully forced romance emerge. You watch bickering turn into flirtation, which leads to hot-and-heavy glances, which turns into sex-signifying fade-outs followed by screaming matches drummed up by contrived late-film fights. Such are the ways of love when conducted by complete morons.
At least I got to enjoy the long-overdue comeuppance of Josh Lucas, who plays Sam, a pediatrician who has the hots for Heigl. In the 2 billion romantic comedies in which Lucas has starred, he’s been the roguish free spirit who managed to sweep the heroine off her feet, derailing her from a life of blissful boredom with the nice but boring guy. Not this time, sucka. Sam is forced to stand by idly as the nice but boring guy who’s powerless to stop Duhamel from taking the entire movie to decide his hate for Holly is really love because of the evil magic cast over him by the baby.
If only Sam had seen Knocked Up, he would have realized that Heigl was susceptible to bad romances with baby daddies.
Starring Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas and Christina Hendricks. Written by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson. Directed by Greg Berlanti. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, is available on Amazon.