LIFE AS WE KNOW IT manipulates you like a marionette, tugs at your heartstrings, tries to melt your heart with a bombardment of cute baby. It gets away with it because of the two good leads and because the screenplay draws a nice balance between comedy and melodrama, and because the baby really is freakin' adorable. LIFE AS WE KNOW IT has Katherine Heigl once again playing one of those fussy, career-oriented, yet vulnerable roles she so excels in. This time her character is Holly Berensen, an up-and-coming caterer. Josh Duhamel stretches his range from playing G.I. Joe on TRANSFORMERS to a fun-loving, laid back network sports director named Eric Messer (but no one calls him "Eric"). The story kicks off with Holly and Messer set up on a blind date by mutual friends, and the date is a horrible, utter disaster. A colossal dating no-no: arranging for a booty call later that night when your current date is in the same car with you. Holly and Messer quickly part company, quite disenchanted.
So imagine their alarm when those same friends who set them up die in a car accident and Holly and Eric find themselves the legal guardians of a suddenly orphaned baby girl named Sophie. Can these two very different souls put aside their mutual dislike and their warring agendas to make a home for Sophie? Well, no, they really can't. They adore the kid. But they can't stand each other. In the parlance of cinema, there's no better recipe for romance.
For the common denominator crowd, there are the baby poopy gags and the smoking the extracurricular stuff. We get the expected hijinks revolving around our couple's attempts to juggle careers and social obligations with their parenting of Sophie. Except that the screenplay delivers enough depth and serious moments to offset the silly. It restrains itself enough. To be honest, there's nothing here that you haven't seen before. But the performances carry you through. Heigl and Duhamel work really well together. The inevitable love story pays off when it suprisingly takes an honest, emotional turn down the road. And you have to appreciate the neat little touches brought about by a supporting cast which features odd neighbors, a teen (pre-teen?) baby whisperer, and a social worker who develops a case of slow burn hysterics. Josh Lucas also shows up as a hunky pediatrician, not that anyone feels threatened. LIFE AS WE KNOW IT is a romantic comedy as we know it. And, I guess, sometimes, there's comfort in familiarity, if the execution is right, if the two leads are compatible, if the baby is all kinds of huggable. Aw, cripes, I'm a sap.