There's something about Katherine Heigl's professional output lately that's become absolutely intolerable. Once thought to be a bright, sharp young actress, Heigl has settled into making dreadfully grating romantic comedies, pitching her charisma to a female audience seemingly ravenous for tales of flustered love with loathsome/lovable Peter Pan men. "Life as We Know It" moves Heigl into itchy dramedy territory, pawing motherhood clichés to pull her demographic in tighter. The picture is wheezy wish fulfillment, brutally concentrated on Crayola filmmaking while feeling out utterly unlikable characters who, we're led to believe, represent a romantic ideal. Phooey.
Perpetual opposites, beer-swillin' sports fanatic Messer (Josh Duhamel) and prissy baker Holly (Katherine Heigl) are forced to join forces when their mutual friends are killed, leaving behind Sophie, their infant daughter, for the bickering twosome to care for. Attempting to live together under the same roof as a schedule for Sophie's care is hashed out, Messer and Holly form a tentative friendship, forged over sticky acts of child rearing and periods of chemically enhanced domestic confession. However, as time passes, the demands of sudden parenthood grow more challenging, stressing the fragile relationship, which takes on the extra burden of love once Messer and Holly realize how much they've bonded.
It's difficult not to sound like a bitter heterosexual man while writing a pan of this odious picture, but Heigl (who co-produces) has a way of making modern love feel like a stint inside of an iron maiden. "Life as We Know It" is pure fantasy, but the thought of riding this nonsense on a more euphoric wave never occurs to director Greg Berlanti, who instead orders up two hours of banal bickering and ice cold chemistry, making the viewer sit though hoary parenting routines, with every last step punctuated by an adorable baby reaction.
It's a gelatinous motion picture with no sense of grace, dishing up formula without hesitation, using cheap parenthood punchlines to superficially bond with the core demographic. And if poop and feeding jokes won't do the trick, Berlanti orders Duhamel to take off his shirt as much as possible and busses in former it-hunk of millennial cinema, Josh Lucas, to twinkle as Holly's marshmallow-spined love interest -- a man who claims fighting is the key to a lasting relationship. I guess that makes Ike Turner the 20th century's greatest Casanova.
The screenplay by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson is a travesty (Messer's nickname is Mess, get it?), refusing every opportunity to march in fresh, substantial directions. They've churned out pap here, following a strict map of formula to bring Holly and Messer together. Imagine if the characters remained friends, with the movie capturing their efforts to find a happy, platonic medium to the intimacy of parenthood? The creaky game of love is safer to play, and Berlanti serves up the tripe without hesitation or skill, blasting through some incredibly ill-conceived sequences, including a pot-brownie ingestion evening to warm up the couple, and a fiercely dramatic moment of public separation where Holly and Messer are made up in full feline facepaint. Perhaps David Lynch ghost directed that wildly bizarre scene.
Also of overwhelming irritation is the cast, a troupe filled with basic cable comics all competing for screentime, beating each other with improvisational batons. It's bad enough to watch Duhamel and Heigl flounder for 120 minutes with zero sexual connection, but to have everyone else jump in with their rusted retorts makes an already long film seem endless. It's like a joke battle royal at times, rendering the film's sporadically serious tone impossible to trust or endure.
The AVC encoded image (2.35:1 aspect ratio) presentation carries a romantic cinematographic mood too far, with overly saturated colors that tend to bleed when challenged, while skintones are accelerated, making everyone look like they spent too much time at the beach. There are ghosting issues during the film as well. Detail is acceptable, reading the parental panic on the faces of the stars comfortably, while set design touches are within sight. Shadow detail is muddy and unappealing, smudging up critical evening and low-light textures. Admittedly, this is a soft-focus picture to begin with, but the BD viewing experience falls far below traditional HD standards.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix leans on the thin side, with soundtrack cuts coming off tinny, while scoring cues are less insistent than preferred. Dialogue exchanges are welcomingly crisp and full, holding well as the script works through yelling matches and calm personal moments. All exposition remains free of clutter, blended well with the elements. Atmospherics are kept in play to pleasing results, with television director booth and party scenes supplying life to the surrounds. Low-end is nonexistent. French, Spanish, and Portuguese tracks are also available.
English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are offered.
"A Survival Guide to Instant Parenting" (7:12) interviews cast and crew for their thoughts on the world of raising children, collecting tips on how to deal with kids, discussing the way they instantly change lives. Since most of the cast are comics, there are a lot of failed attempts to make everything funny.
"Katherine Heigl: Becoming the Best Mom Ever" (5:56) celebrates the star power and talents of the actress, with interviews extolling the virtues of her work ethic and charisma. Talk of Heigl's own foray into parenthood is also covered.
"Josh Duhamel: Triplet Tamer" (5:16) is more about the child stars than the big one, displaying the trust built between the actors as the film was shot.
"Deleted Scenes" (14:42) collects several slivers of character development and parental concern, but the major additions cover Messer's single man conquests in the house, the addition of a nose-picking character, a cameo by Steve Nash, and video birthday card from the supporting cast.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
"Life as We Know It" cranks up the gurgles, ironic lullaby music, and a break-up-to-make-up scenario to push down hard on the viewer, attempting to pass insufferably precious behavior off as a traditional romantic-comedy good time. It's clear Heigl is coasting at this point, once again playing to the rafters for a quick buck, rendering the splendor of love a chore. A profoundly unfunny, sickeningly laborious, likely godless chore.
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