Life as we Know it (2010)

(Netflix Streaming, March 2016) I’m constantly surprised at the number of romantic comedies that revolve around tragic material. In this case, Life as We Know It is a film founded on the brutal accidental death of a one-year-old girl’s parents—the laughs are supposed to come when two mismatched friends are designated as guardians. Will they overcome their initial disgust toward one another to bond with the baby and for a family? Of course they will—and part of Life as We Know It’s appeal is not only in the way the expected moments will come, but also in how it somehow manages to get laughs from a situation that’s more tragic than comic. Let’s not pretend that the result is an unqualified success: Life as We Know It is largely a routine film, with few surprises on its way through a familiar arc. The stakes are a bit too high for comfort (although the film does get a bit of emotional depth by taking the tensions experienced by new parents and cranking them up to 11) but the plot points are well-known. Katherine Heigl does herself no favours by taking on a very familiar character, work-driven and uptight to an almost unpleasant degree, while Josh Duhamel isn’t much more than a usual overgrown bro in a somewhat stereotypical take on a new father. Some of the supporting performance shines, though, whether it’s a pre-stardom Melissa McCarthy, Christina Hendricks (very briefly) or Sarah Burns as a quirky CPS case worker. While Life as We Know It emotionally zigs and zags a bit too much to be completely satisfying, it actually manages to build something halfway decent out of very strange elements. If nothing else, it may be of comfort to new harried parents looking for any affirmation that things could be worse.

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