They're in an awful mess
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, October 8, 2010
"Life as We Know It" calls to mind the punch line of an old joke.
Seems the Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded by angry Indians on the warpath. "It looks like we're in real trouble now, Tonto," says the Lone Ranger. To which Tonto replies, "What do you mean 'we,' paleface?"
After watching this silly, cliche-ridden -- and yet more than slightly alien -- romantic comedy, you might feel a similar urge to disavow membership in the club suggested by its all-embracing title. Whose life are we talking about, exactly?
Although the words are meant to suggest the universality of the human condition -- We're all in this mess together, huh, pal? -- there's really only one tiny group of people on the planet for whom the "life" as depicted in "Life As We Know It" will feel the least bit recognizable: Hollywood movie producers.
I can almost hear the pitch meeting now: There's this married couple with a baby, see? And then one day the couple dies in a tragic car accident, leaving their adorably orphaned, 1-year-old daughter in the care of her hot single godparents. Except the godparents -- I'm thinking Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl here -- never even knew about, let alone agreed to, this arrangement in the first place. The beauty part? They hate each other's guts!
Sounds like your life, right? Actually, it doesn't sound any less plausible than the sitcom proposed by George on "Seinfeld" way back when, in which a judge sentences an uninsured motorist to be George's butler -- his butler, for God's sake -- after a traffic accident. Hey, it could happen.
Conveniently enough, there are no blood relatives who can take in the kid, other than one cousin who's a stripper, another who already has nine children and a grandfather on an oxygen tank. That leaves Holly Berenson (Heigl) and Eric Messer (Duhamel) -- or "Mess," as he is aptly known -- to move in together and try to make the best of a stupid situation.
He's a a womanizing pig who works in the TV control booth for a professional Atlanta sports team. She's a nurturing homebody who runs a gourmet store and bake shop like the one Meryl Streep had in "It's Complicated." Neither one knows the first thing about changing diapers.
Like we've never seen that before. Brace yourself, though. The movie has more excrement jokes than the typical rom-com. Messer's characterization of one particularly nasty diaper -- "It's like 'Slumdog Millionaire' in there" -- is one of the movie's funnier lines. Otherwise, the script (by first-time feature writers Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson) is not especially original, zingy or insightful.
Fortunately, both Holly and Messer are incredibly hot. Which means that, in accordance with the physical laws of the known hot universe, they must be together, certain plot contrivances notwithstanding. Holly's dalliance with an earnest but only semi-hot pediatrician (Josh Lucas) and Messer's brief escape to a new job in Phoenix only serve to prolong the inevitable fusion of nuclear hotness, made all the more cloying by the addition of a cute baby.
At nearly two hours, the movie feels bloated. It could easily lose 30 minutes, give or take, and live. It would still not, however, live up to its title.
Contains obscenity, drug use, sensuality and poop humor.