Katherine Heigl has solidified her reputation as a romantic comedy actress with a track record that started out strong (Knocked Up) but has hit a few bumps throughout her career (Killers). With Life as We Know It, Heigl is staying within her preferred film genre, and it's one of the better films on her resume.
As Holly, Heigl is the polar opposite of Messer (Josh Duhamel), a mutual friend of her friends Alison and Peter (Christina Hendricks and Hayes MacArthur). Like most of Heigl's characters, she's a Type A control freak while he's a slacking playboy. They clash on their first date and keep their distance from one another, until tragedy strikes and Alison and Peter die in a car crash. They leave their 1-year-old daughter, Sophie, behind, with her custody in the hands of Holly and Messer. Anyone can figure out what happens to Holly and Messer's relationship as they bond over raising a baby together, but thanks to a script full of heartfelt moments and clever dialogue, it's a pleasant journey.
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Duhamel and Heigl have decent chemistry, but their unexpected situation makes them more appealing. As cute, inexperienced parents, Duhamel is irresistible wearing a Baby Bjorn and singing Radiohead to Sophie, while Heigl mines her maternal instincts for a side of Holly that's softer than her usual characters. And the baby in question? The actress (rather, triplet actresses Alexis, Brynn, and Brooke Clagett) should get recognition as one of the most adorable babies the screen has ever seen.
The movie is wise to include a crop of funny friends like Melissa McCarthy and Human Giant's Rob Huebel, and one of the funniest performances comes from I Love You Man's Sarah Burns as a frank social worker. These supporting characters provide the bulk of the humor, taking some of the heavy lifting off the leads. And they need the help, considering some of the lame materiel Duhamel and Heigl are given, like the wholly unnecessary poop joke you've no doubt seen in the trailer by now.
The film's flaws are typical of a romantic comedy that's trying to get you to focus on the romance and nothing else. Specifically, it glides a bit too quickly over the loss of Sophie's parents. When Holly and Messer are supposed to be bereaved, the movie is busy exaggerating their odd-couple conflicts (though there is a brief, well-acted sequence by Heigl when she first learns of her friends' death). But flaws in romantic comedy are as predictable as a musical montage where the characters grow and fall in love, so it's easy to forgive. Life as We Know It does what it's designed for — it reassures you with its love story. It's just a bonus that you also fall in love with a sweet family unit.