LIFE AS WE KNOW IT - Blu-ray review

It does nothing new, offers nothing new, attempts nothing new, a formula picture from beginning to end.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

The reader should not confuse this 2010 romantic comedy with the various TV shows of the same name over the past thirty years. Not that that wouldn't be a good thing. This run-of-the-mill effort is pretty forgettable, and maybe the confusion would help matters.

Greg Berlanti, who directed "Life as We Know It," has mostly written and produced material for TV, his only other big-screen directorial effort being "The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy," which maybe explains why "Life as We Know It" comes off like a television sitcom. The fact is, about ten minutes into the movie, I wanted to turn it off. Indeed, I did pause the movie numerous times just to get away from the banal activity going on in it, making a two-hour film about twice as long as it was. But, for that matter, even if I had watched it straight through, I'm sure it would have felt like four hours, anyway.

Now, understand, I don't dislike romantic comedies out of hand. Truth be told, I'm kind of a sucker for them when done well. I watched "You've Got Mail" a few nights before this one and enjoyed it for maybe the sixth or seventh time I've seen it, and the week before that the Wife-O-Meter and I saw the unexceptional "How Do You Know" in a theater, and even though it wasn't very good, I didn't want to walk out on it. "Life as We Know It" was just so annoyingly bland and implausible, it was hard to sit through. To add insult to injury, Oscar, the cat from next door, came over to visit, and he seemed indifferent to the film as well.

Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel, both of whom got their start in television work--no surprise--star in "Life as We Know It." They play a couple of thirty-somethings who have hated each other ever since their mutual best friends (a married couple with a one-year-old baby) set them up on a blind date a few years earlier. Holly Berenson (Heigl) is a beautiful, smart, engaging woman who owns a bakery and catering service, but even though she seems to have everything going for her and meets the public on a daily basis, she hasn't had a date in ages. Go figure. Eric Messer (Duhamel) is a macho, sports-minded, womanizing jerk who's worn the same baseball cap since high school. He shows up for the blind date on a motorcycle, with no idea where they're going to go for dinner. It takes him about ten seconds to insult her badly enough for her storm back into her house. Since then, it's been painful for them to be around one another whenever their mutual friends invite them (separately) to parties.

After this exposition we get the movie's basic setup, starting with the mutual friends dying in an automobile accident. How's that for putting a damper on the fun of a romantic comedy. Then comes the unbelievable part: In their will, the mutual friends name Holly and Messer, both still single, as their baby's guardians; and they leave their luxury house to them as well. So, what are Holly and Messer to do but move into the house together and raise the child. Right. The screenwriters couldn't think of any other way to make their romantic comedy work except to kill off two perfectly nice characters for the sake of a brainless plot.

And that's it. The other 90% of the movie is about this mismatched odd couple trying to tend to the baby while, well, you know, romantic-comedy stuff goes on. There's nothing too risqué, though, nothing too sexy, and no dirty words, so the MPAA rated the movie PG-13. It's just the kind of unimaginative tedium you see in TV sitcoms almost any night of the week. Meaning be prepared for a load of baby-puke and baby-poop jokes. One of the film's supposed highlights is Holly answering the door to neighbors (who are largely obnoxious) with a huge gob of baby poop on her face. Like, she didn't notice?

The characters bicker and fight and generally drive each other (and the viewer) crazy. What with Holly's relentless sweetness, Messer's unfailing sloppiness, and the baby's ceaseless bawling, the movie seems hopeless. Somewhere along the way, Josh Lucas enters the scene as a customer at Holly's bakery--a charming, handsome, unattached doctor--who gets lost in the shuffle of the movie's nonsense.

You'll find every romantic-comedy cliché you can name here: For instance, the social-services case worker checking up on Holly and Messer's care of the child always drops in at inopportune times, like when Holly has had too much to drink or when Messer is in his usual state of disarray. And, naturally, we get maudlin, sorrowful moments of seriousness to help build the tension and suspense, which never materializes.

Each plot development comes perfectly on cue, making "Life as We Know It" as predictable a romantic comedy as any you could imagine. No, I didn't hate the film; I just didn't enjoy it very much.

Warner engineers use a single-layer BD25 and an MPEG-4 AVC codec to reproduce the film's original aspect ratio, a wide 2.40:1. However, they get mixed results. Colors are rich, to be sure, but they are also deeper and darker than real life, rendering faces too bronzed to look natural. And definition can range from good to average depending on the distance between the camera and the subject; the farther away it gets, the softer and fuzzier the image looks. Does it matter? Not really, since I doubt that many discriminating videophiles are going to be flocking to buy this movie in any case.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack might as well have been Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural for all I could hear. The movie begins with a boomy song playing, which turns out to be a high point in the film's audio track. After that, we get a limited surround, a limited front-channel stereo spread, a limited frequency response, and a limited dynamic range. What we do get is dialogue, rendered reasonably smoothly and clearly, which is about all the audio track needs to do.

In common with the DVD edition, the Blu-ray disc contains almost a dozen deleted scenes totaling about fourteen minutes. Then, exclusive to the BD, there are three, brief featurettes: "A Survival Guide to Instant Parenting," seven minutes, with the cast and filmmakers offering advice on child rearing; "Katherine Heigl: Becoming the Best Mom Ever," six minutes, with Ms. Heigl talking further about the film from the perspective of a new mom; and "Josh Duhamel: The Triplet Tamer," five minutes, with the co-star discussing his work with the triplets who played the baby.

The extras on the Blu-ray disc conclude with twelve scene selections; English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish spoken languages; French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Finally, because this is a Combo package, you'll also find a DVD edition of the film; a digital copy for iTunes and Windows Media (the offer expiring February 6, 2012); and a slipcover for the keep case.

Parting Shots:
"Life as We Know It" isn't just a mediocre romantic comedy, it's a mediocre movie, period. It does nothing new, offers nothing new, attempts nothing new. It's a formula picture from beginning to end, with a couple of former television stars doing what they do best: acting as though they were still in television.


Film Value