Movies: Life As We Know It * *
(12A, general release)
There's a kind of callous brutality at work behind the scenes in Life as We Know It that makes it very hard to like.
Katherine Heigl, who's in danger of becoming the Typhoid Mary of romantic comedy if she doesn't appear in a decent film soon, stars as Holly Berenson, the handsome but mysteriously single owner/manager of an Atlanta bakery who's delighted when her best friends Peter and Allison have a baby girl, Sophie.
She's less pleased when they set her up on a disastrous blind date with Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel), a cocky TV sports director who makes lewd remarks and generally hacks her off.
But the sad truth is that Eric and Holly are joined forever by one fact -- they're Sophie's godparents. And this fact is about to have unforeseen consequences. One night Holly is awakened by a call from a nearby hospital, and when she rushes down to the emergency room she learns that Peter and Allison have been killed in a car crash.
Then, a lawyer tells her and Eric that they've been named as Sophie's legal guardians in a will. Holly and Eric can't stick the sight of one another, but for the baby's sake agree to live in the dead couple's rambling house in order to raise the kid in an atmosphere of continuity.
This, of course, will be easier said than done, as neither of them know which end of a nipper is up, and their faltering attempts at parenthood are closely monitored by a dubious woman from social services.
Of course you can see where all this is going, but Life As We Know It's problem is that it gets there with so little grace. What few laughs the film manages are delivered with a heavy hand, and Ms Heigl's tendencies towards shrewishness go largely unchecked. What the film primarily and disastrously lacks is charm, and who thought that killing off a baby's parents midway through a romantic comedy was a good idea?
It casts a pall over the whole dubious exercise, and it's incredible how quickly Holly and Eric get over the fact that their best friends died screaming in a pile-up.