I think that The Amazing Criswell said it best in Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s immortal so-bad-it’s-good epic Plan 9 From Outer Space: “All of us on this Earth know that there is a time to live and a time to die. Yet, death is always a shock to those left behind; it is even more of a shock when Death, the Proud Brother, comes suddenly without warning.” Now, had the main characters in Greg Berlanti’s Life As We Know It bothered watching Ed Wood’s timeless mess-terpiece, they might have known what to expect: something both unexpectable and bad.
We begin with prissy working girl Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl) going out on a blind date with complete douchebag Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel): a date courtesy of their two bestest friends ever, Mr. & Mrs. Soon-To-Be-Dead-In-A-Bloody-Car-Wreck. The blind date proves disastrous, seeing that neither one of the mostly-unwilling participants has any interest in the other. It doesn’t end there, though, since both parties have the misfortune of seeing each other constantly whilst attending the Soon-To-Be-Dead-In-A-Bloody-Car-Wrecks’ various neighborhood activities — most of which revolve around their newborn baby girl, Sophie (who, for some reason, doesn’t have the same surname as her parents).
Well, just as The Amazing Criswell said, that Proud Brother by the name o’ Death comes-a-callin’ — and little Sophie’s mum and dad discover the hard way what it means to have such a long and unnecessarily hyphenated last name. The pairing that Holly and Messer viewed as the world’s most perfect couple have died, proving that age-old adage “Good things happen to bad people.” Or is it “Bad things happen to good people?” No matter, people: the point here is that Holly and Messer’s longtime pals expire in a most unpleasant way. However, before their wrongful termination, the almost-quite-deceased couple extract the most devious method of revenge imaginable on their friends: by willing their baby-thing to them.
Obviously, the Soon-To-Be-Dead-In-A-Bloody-Car-Wrecks hated their friends, Holly and Messer, with a fierce passion. They just didn’t know how to tell them to fuck off in a more polite manner.
So, our odd couple gets the unenviable task of raising their own personal orphaned bastard redheaded stepchild (seriously, the kid’s got red hair!). And, like anyone who’s ever reproduced their genetic strand via the sex and unleashed miniature hellish versions of themselves upon the world (like me, ha!), Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel get to experience the joys of raising a child.
Having a family, of course, causes lots of drama — especially when one is thrust upon you without your knowledge or consent (you‘d think Katherine Heigl would‘ve figured that out in Knocked Up!). Both of the new step-parents learn they have to start scaling back on their careers. They also learn that all of the other parents in the vicinity are kinda loony. But, in the end — as anyone can probably guess — they also learn to live with each other and find true love, happiness, baby shit, pot brownies, and some other kinds of miscellaneous stuff.
Yes, kids, it’s Life As We Know It: the touchingly lighthearted heartwarming drama romantic comedy family flick that proves, uh, er…something.
While it has maybe one slightly tender-ish moment going for it (and I confess that I can not remember what that one particular instant might have been now), Life As We Know It is basically nothing more than what I have dubbed “Cookie Cutter Cinema.” We’ve seen these goods advertised in a store display many a time. On occasion we’ve sampled said goods to see if they would appeal to our palates or not; and, if they did, we’ve taken a box home.
Alas, the recipe never changes. In fact, the bakers in charge of producing these crap-tastic insulin bombs seem to be getting lazier, less responsible, and have been smoking entirely too much of the reefer to get out a decent batch anymore. Most (if not all) of the ingredients are there, but sometimes, the amounts are entirely disproportionate to the instructions at hand. Other times, there are entirely too many ingredients. Either way, though, the care and/or pride that should be included in each and every batch just isn’t there.
In the case of Life As We Know It, we have two thoroughly unlikable characters diving into parenthood because they loved their friends so much. Now, I don’t know how it goes with your particular circle of acquaintances, but I’d be willing to guess that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen in your world if you or your best buddy bit it one day. No, I’m calling “bollocks” on this one, folks. And the same goes with the cast: Heigl and Duhamel trot through their million-dollar paychecks as they usually do: annoyingly, and without any thought or care for the astuteness that their audience first walks in with.
The rest of the cast (including Sarah Burns as a social worker, Faizon Love as the film’s one and only black guy, and Josh Lucas doing his finest Daniel Craig as Matthew McConaughey impersonation to date!), meanwhile, come and go like they’re in a Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly film: vying for some desperately needed attention (or perhaps pity) whenever the camera is focused on them. Hell, you’d think they were all orphaned bastard redheaded stepchildren from Mr. & Mrs. Soon-To-Be-Dead-In-A-Bloody-Car-Wrecks with the way these kids behave!
Perhaps Greg Berlanti (who previously only directed one other film: the much superior The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy) should put all of his cast and crew in time-out for this one.
Life As We Know It is set to collect dust on store shelves everywhere in a “Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy = More Than You Really Know What To Do With” release courtesy of the folks at Warner Bros. The title is also available in a single-disc Blu-ray release, as a standalone Standard Def DVD, and can be purchased On Demand and For Download, too, via iTunes.
Sadly, the High Def release of this lackluster blockbuster doesn’t even benefit from a better-quality transfer to defend its own justification for a home video release. The 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC HD presentation here carries with it that slightly-exaggerated color scheme going for it that so many other rom-coms and family flicks tend to be afflicted with. People look like they’ve just stepped out of a ten-minute session in George Hamilton’s personal tanning booth (which is obviously a way to cover up the fact that 99% of the cast is about as white as sour cream), the greens are really green, and the reds are redder than the faces of any cast or crewmember of the film who was dumb enough to show up at the movie’s world premiere. In short: the picture is that layer of inedible frosting that tries to cover up the fact that the cookie is undercooked.
But hey, at least the disc’s audio facet fares slightly better! Life As We Know It boasts an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that delivers its dialogue, baby screams, and prepackaged pop music quite well. Since this isn’t the kind of film that relies on a “true” surround sound experience to sell itself (e.g. all five speaker doohickeys and the box that goes rumble-boom), one shouldn’t expect a totally engrossing aural experience. But it works for the kind of feature it’s paired with, though. Additional audio tracks are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1. The disc also offers up four optional subtitle tracks in English (SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
In terms of Special Features, Warner’s release of Life As We Know It contains a handful of stale day-old goodies. First up are three featurettes, the first of which is “A Survival Guide to Instant Parenting” — a chat with various members of the film’s cast and crew about the whole “offspring” thing. Next up is “Katherine Heigl: Becoming the Best Mom Ever,” which is just as exciting as it sounds, but nowhere near as enthralling as the final featurette, “Josh Duhamel: Triplet Tamer,” wherein our strapping male lead is seen amusing the triplets that played little Sophie in the film. Also included are about 15 minutes’ worth of several wisely Deleted Scenes. A number of trailers for other films and bumpers for a promo or two play when the disc boots up.
To sum it up: if you’re having a child, are too fucking lazy to read a book written by an honest-to-God professional on the subject, and are hoping a movie like Life As We Know It will answer all of your questions concerning parenting and children, then chances are you should be sterilized immediately.