The old “inherit a baby” gag has a long cinematic tradition. “Life As We Know It” offers another take by combining a trite rehashing of parental ineptitude jokes with an odd couple romantic comedy. As you might imagine, the result is just awful. And not even in a fun way.
Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Messer (Josh Duhamel) are two chronically single people set up on a blind date by their respective best friends, committed couple Alison and Peter. Holly is a little black dress wearing, professional baker who likes to mention the fact that she was in a sorority. Messer (his surname) is a motorcycle riding, sports broadcasting technician and Id-controlled slut. The date ends five minutes in when he accepts a booty call right in front of her. Holly storms off, saying she never wants to see him again. But she’s shit out of luck, because Alison and Peter get married and breed. Holly and Messer become honorary Aunt and Uncle to the offspring. Forced to spend countless hours together at every family function, they tease each other with the sort of cruelty that can only mean they secretly want to bone.
One year later, Alison and Peter Novack fall prey to that popular Hollywood Orphan Maker, the fatal car crash. Holly and Messer are shocked to learn that they’ve been appointed custody of the Novack’s daughter, Sophie. Astoundingly, their best friends never thought to tell them that they might one day become insta-parents. Furthermore, it seems ill-conceived to choose two inexperienced single people who allegedly despise each other to raise your kid together. Though to be fair, they might not have had much of a choice. At the funeral, Holly and Messer meet the Novack’s shitty neighbors (including a sassy fat lady and a gay stereotype couple) and incapacitated family members (it’s funny when grandpa can’t breathe!). Perhaps they did the right thing. Since Holly and Messer loved their friends and love Sophie, they decide to suck it up and play house. Luckily, they also inherit the Novack’s beige mansion so at least their hardships take place in suburban cushiness.
Naturally, what follows are typical scenes of incompetence and inconvenience. Changing a diaper is hard! Feeding a baby is messy! Children’s music sucks! Babies never let you watch the game in peace! There’s never time to get laid! Their neighbors impart platitudes about poop and lack of sleep. Underneath all of these clichés, there inevitably brews a love story. Though Holly enjoys a brief courtship with a handsome pediatrician, it can never work because clearly she’s meant to be with the insensitive commitment-phobe. Convenient, since they have custody of a child together.
I’m not sure why these people don’t have any friends or family to help them. The neighbors stop by but mostly just to talk smugly and ogle Messer. I guess he’s supposed to be really hot or something. No wonder he’s so slutty. People are constantly throwing themselves at him. It must be hard to refuse poon when it’s handed to you on a silver platter. Holly is pretty much the only one who doesn’t want a piece of that ass. Though she’s no prize pig herself. I think people intend to cast Katherine Heigl as the relatable Every-girl. However, either the Every-girl is a vapid, uptight beyotch, or Heigl is incapable of disguising her natural personality. Then again, Holly’s bakery is called Fraische. It’s like “fresh” but pronounced “fray-sh”. Who could like a person like that?
Only in the movies do people fall in love with people they hate. If constant arguing and childish insults are indisputable signs of true love, then Holly and Messer are Romeo and fucking Juliet. They fight constantly. They fight over parenting styles and scheduling conflicts. They fight about how uptight she is and how he is a skanky ho. As they argue over whose life inheriting a baby inconveniences most, little Sophie watches them and cries. Hilarious! And so romantic!
What sets “Life As We Know It” apart from other rom-coms is its fresh view on fighting in relationships. Holly and Messer find a home movie of Alison and Peter arguing the day they brought Sophie home from the hospital. They’re relieved because they viewed their friends as ideal parents. That means, they decide, that hostile arguing in front of the baby is totally fine. Later, the perfect boyfriend overhears Holly and Messer fighting and he breaks up with her because he spots their venom as a surefire sign of true love. “If my [ex-]wife and I fought like that”, he tells her, “we’d still be married.” So antagonism is not only OK for babies, it’s also the basis of a stable marriage. Be that as it may, it’s not very fun to watch two people fight for almost two hours.
With all this well-worn territory, the writers could have at least attempted to do something unique with the ending. But no, it’s another fucking race to the airport. Why do they always need to get to the airport? Doesn’t every single person in western civilization own a cell phone? Notice I didn’t dignify that with a spoiler alert. That’s because if you couldn’t figure out the ending from the trailer, then I can’t help you.
Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).