By Susan JAMES
From the opening scenes of ‘Life As We Know It,’ director Greg Berlanti’s new romantic comedy, we know where it’s going. There are no surprises about the destination but the film manages to make the journey enjoyable. Part of a growing genre of coming of age stories about boy-men and the women who love them, ‘Life As We Know It’ follows in the footsteps of ‘The Switch,’ ‘The Hangover’ and ‘The Game Plan’ by proving the maxim, ‘A little child shall lead them.’
Life is sweet for Josh Duhamel’s Messer. Messer covers sports for an Atlanta television network, has all of the women he wants and no responsibilities. The dude is cool, rumpled and carefree. Best friend Peter, played by Hayes MacArthur, has taken the more adult route. Happily married and father of a year old daughter, Sophie, he has made Messer Sophie’s godfather. On the distaff side, Peter’s wife Alison, played by the ever-engaging Christina Hendricks, has given the position of godmother to her best friend Holly (Katherine Heigl). Like Messer, Holly is a walking Hollywood cliché, a successful businesswoman, owner of her own bakery who in true 1940s romantic comedy style yearns for a man to validate her life. Set up by Peter and Alison on a date, which goes very wrong, Messer and Holly detest each other on sight. Any idea yet where this is going?
When a fatal car accident leaves baby Sophie an orphan, Messer and Holly are named co-guardians. Both reluctantly accept their new roles. And this is where Heigl and Duhamel move into some recognizably real emotion. Holly, who has been looking for a path to marriage and motherhood, takes on her role as Sophie’s new mom with a fair amount of grace. Messer struggles. The baby gets in the way of his big break on the job, his dating routines, his carefree existence. But his devotion to the memory of his friend forces him to consider what’s best for Sophie. Duhamel is very good at showing Messer’s emotionally casual exterior while hinting at the turmoil going on inside. Heigl is burdened with a more brittle character unwilling to cut her co-guardian any slack. He has a big deal at work? Too bad, she scheduled a big catering job first. When Messer is offered a dream position covering the Phoenix Suns, do they try and work it out? No, they scream at each other instead.
Although the script by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson frequently lets the actors down, Duhamel and Heigl manage to convey enough charm and chemistry to make their increasing attraction to each other believable. When Messer returns from Phoenix having realized that he is in love with Holly, Holly is otherwise occupied with Sophie’s pediatrician. But it doesn’t take her long to see that she too has grown up. Once the object of her fantasies, the pediatrician can’t compete with Messer and Sophie. Dreams and men can and do change and adorable babies are a sure way of bringing them all together in the end.
See you at the movies!