Last Fall, Warner Bros. released their latest romantic comedy, titled Life As We Know It, a modest outing about two unlikey companions who are given custody of a one-year-old baby girl after the parents accidentally die in a car accident. The film stars Katherine Heigl, who seems more well-known for more abrasive sex comedies like Knocked Up or The Ugly Truth, and Josh Duhamel, who may be most widely known for his contributions to the Michael Bay-directed Transformers movie franchise. Heigl and Duhamel actually make a great pairing, especially when the two are butting heads, and end up being the highlights of this quirky and often dramatic romantic comedy.
In Life As We Know It, Heigl's Holly and Duhamel's Messer pretty much hate each other's guts, but they share the same best friends who the two support throughout the couple's dating and marriage relationship. So when their friends die in a freak automobile accident, Holly and Messer are shocked to find that they've been named the intended caregivers of the couple's baby girl, Sophie. Director Greg Berlanti, who has more work under his belt as a screenplay writer than an actual director (this seems to be his first significant film) sticks closely to the step-by-step romantic recipe, but uses unique circumstances to try to give his move its own identity. It doesn't fully succeed, but he does it well enough to still produce an entertaining film in the end. At its strongest, Life As We Know It ends up being the maturation of two independent and often selfish (well, particularly Messer) people who learn the importance of living for others and devoting their lives to raising a baby. It also offers a very pro-family theme, although it goes about doing it a bit too all-inclusive and stereotypically in an attempt to be as relevant and applicable to its audience as possible.
Through its execution, Life As We Know It is not only formulaic with the way it carries out the romantic elements, but the content of the film is among the edgier PG-13 romantic films. Not only does the story play up Messer's womanizing ways, but there is a surprising amount of drug references in the movie. For example, Messer's friend Peter confronts a couple of kids that appear to be stoned and reprimands them before confiscating a small amount of pot for himself. Later, Messer finds this in Peter's house and suggests he and Holly smoke it. She refuses, so we then see them baking the marijuana into a batch of brownies, eating them, and then sitting stoned while watching kids shows. It's all played for laughs and shows how unfit they are for parenthood, but it seemed out of place in the film and was never fully shown as being a wrong action. But that is a fair example of the movie's take on some controversial topics. In the same scene where Peter confiscates the pot from the teenager, the film takes a jab at Christianity when the kid possessing the pot asks Peter not to rat on him because "my dad's a pastor." The movie also tries especially hard to cover their bases with the kinds of families that are generally found raising children. In the core neighborhood network of parents surrounding Holly and Messer, there are a few traditional husband and wife couples with varying numbers of children, as well as a pair of gay men raising their daughters. It's also within all of this aforementioned material that Berlanti seems to be undecided as to what kind of film it is he's trying to make. The characters surrounding Holly and Messer are mostly caricatures of real people (which, I suppose, is rather common for this genre), while heavy topics are addressed too, like the loss of parents and loved ones, fulfilling life dreams, divorce, child services, etc. The movie tends to flip-flop in tone and ultimately feels inconsistent, despite still being somewhat predictable due to it staying pretty true to the genre's formula.
Despite the drug content, the sexual content is pretty frequent, although mostly present in the form of dialog references. Because of Messer's womanizing ways, there are either frequent mentions of his liasions with young girls, or we actually see him in bed with a girl long after their encounter. Also, all of the neighborhood women (and the gay couple) are entirely fixated on Messer's rugged good looks. It's amusing at times, but becomes a running gag that tires out quickly and, like most of the scenes involving the neighborhood posse, it helps jar the viewer out of any kind of reality the filmmakers are trying to ground the central couple in. Language isn't frequent, but there are two uses of "F-- you" that Holly and Messer whisper to each other during a verbal fight one evening at home, among some other language. It's unfortunate that the movie is as edgy as it is because it does offer some really sweet moments between the central couple, especially as they're learning how to raise an infant. As a new father myself (to a four-month-old boy), I found their experiences being thrusted into parenthood to be easily relatable and the most amusing moments in the movie. I can imagine only parents - especially younger ones - would be interested in a flick like this one, and it's just a shame some of the content wasn't toned down more (although I'm sure it's a far cry from some of Heigl's usual work). The sexual dialog was certainly not needed for the movie and just seemed thrown into the mix just for the sake of including it.
The film's redeemable qualities as a pro-family themed story that contains some enjoyable chemistry between the two leads isn't quite enough to save it from being a rocky venture. The sexual humor is pretty frequent while some surprising marijuana references become a lot more prominent than one might expect in a movie like this. It's all enough to taint a picture that otherwise could have been some sweet little parental escapism.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/11/11)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
As a Blu-Ray release, Life As We Know It probably isn't a must to see in high-definition, but it does look great in HD. The Blu-Ray release is available as a stand-alone or as a combo pack along with the DVD and Digital Copy, so it remains the ultimate bargain buy for fans of the film. Among the Blu-Ray extras are...
Deleted Scenes (14:42) - Almost fifteen minutes of deleted footage is included on the Blu-Ray disc. The scenes are, for the most part, disposable, including additional footage like a repeated gag where Messer keeps coming in contact with a little boy who picks his nose a lot. There is a pretty good sequence where Messer and Holly try to take Sophie home for the first time but after Holly realizes they don't have a car seat, she walks the baby home while Messer slowly drives alongside the two. Another scene takes place in a hospital room where there's some tender dialog between Messer and Holly. The most disposable of all the footage, however, is a lengthy batch of "interview" clips with the neighborhood parents who are recording video messages for Sophie for when she's older. There is also a semi-racy scene where Messer takes home a girl with the intentions of sleeping with her (much to Holly's objection) and before they can really go far, Holly interrupts them and makes Messer watch Sophie while she runs out to get the baby some medicine. Messer's date, who then first learns that he's a sort-of single dad, is turned on by this fact and the two continue to make out. We later see Holly return as Messer's date leaves.
A Survival Guide To Instant Parenting (7:12) - The first of three featurettes focuses on the supporting cast (well, basically all of the neighborhood parents plus Josh Duhamel) talking about parenthood and their own individual experiences or suggestions for new parents, or parenting from the eyes of their character. The film's director and producer also join in to reflect on parenthood. It doesn't have much by way of behind-the-scenes for the film, but it's a cute segment that fans of the film might enjoy (scenes from the movie are also spliced into the montage of interview clips and some of the language from the film is heard in these clips).
Katherine Heigl: Becoming The Best Mom Ever (5:56) showcases leading lady Katherine Heigl and her role as Holly in the film. The crew talk about working with Heigl and how her signing on to the film helped get the movie made. Katherine also shares about her experience with the movie and how the production of it coincided with her actually becoming a first-time mom in real life.
Josh Duhamel: The Triplet Tamer (5:16) - The role of Sophie was actually performed by a set of triplets. This little featurette, which is also the last of the extras, is probably the closest thing here to a behind-the-scenes spot. It focuses on Josh Duhamel in the role of Eric Messer, but also his relationship with the little triplet girls who played Sophie and how they really bonded with him on and off set. This one's the highlight of the extras.
Overall, although the home entertainment release of Life As We Know It doesn't get all too many extras for fans of the film, what it does offer is decent (especially in comparison to other films given even lighter extras) and the picture quality alone makes the HD release the ideal viewing choice.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/11/11)
Theatrical Version: Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Heavy. There are frequent references to Messer being a womanizer - often having one night stands with young girls; We see a woman's bare back as she lies in Messer's bed. We see him walking around clothed as he leaves; We see Messer and a blonde woman asleep in bed together, apparently after sex. We're supposed to think it's Holly at first, but we see that it's not her when she turns to look at him; We see Messer and Holly kissing passionately and then she pushes him up against a wall as she removes his shirt. The scene ends there, but we see them in bed together the next morning; The neighborhood busybodies watch how Messer and Holly are acting and comment to each other that they think the two slept together; Most of the sexual content, however, is in dialog form. We see when Messer and Holly first meet for a blind date and it fails. Messer comments that the "best case scenario" was that they would get drunk and have sex. He answers a call while on the date with her and schedules to meet a girl after his date with Holly, which Holly refers to as a "booty call;" Messer's ringtone (in the 2007 flashback) repeats the line "Pull over, that *ss too fat;" When Messer tries to cover up the call he received as being a "friend who's sick," she knows it'd be a sexual meeting for him and irritatedly asks him if he's going to go over there and "heal her" with his "magic penis;" In a montage of scenes from Peter and Alison's wedding, we see Messer making out with a woman at the wedding and later goosing Holly during the photo session; Messer asks Peter if Sophie's babysitter is hot and Peter jokingly tells her yes, since she's really just a little girl; A man tells Messer that he and his partner used to have sex all the time and everywhere before their baby, but we then see that he's with another man; Holly calls the number on several business cards left at her restaurant to try to find the guy she likes. One of the wrong numbers that answers the phone is a woman who sounds interested in the fact that Holly is calling (meaning the woman on the phone is a lesbian). Holly makes the call from within a bubble bath but we don't see anything explicit besides her legs hanging out of the tub and her shoulders; Holly and Messer try to find other people who could care for the baby instead of them and while Holly quizzes a woman on her job, it's revealed that she's a stripper; About now having Sophie, Messer makes a comment about using a condom with a girl in the past to prevent having a kid and he still ended up with one; Messer likens his difficulty in removing Sophie's diaper to not being as easy as taking a bra off a girl; We see baby Sophie's bare butt while Holly and Messer shower her; Messer likens getting stares at a grocery stores from women when they see him with a baby to when guys stare at a woman "with a great rack;" While being quizzed by child services, Messer jokes that he'd move up in his job faster if his boss got caught with a "tranny hooker." The woman then asks if Holly and Messer are sleeping together and they insist that they're not, while Messer adds that he gets enough of that elsewhere and Holly says she's had enough of it in her past; We see some cheerleaders at sporting events; During a verbal fight, Messer complains that before having Sophie, girls used to sleep with him all the time and that he even slept with the the girl who sold him the shirt that he's wearing. Holly yells back that all he cares about is "getting laid" and he tells her she needs to, if only she could find a guy who could stand her; A married neighbor woman of Messer's ogles him while he stretches outside; We see Holly taking a bubble bath and then get out of the tub in just a towel and rushing through the house in just that. There's some cleavage, but no nudity; We see Messer in just his underwear very briefly as he follows Sophie through a room; Messer teases Holly about going out with Sam (if she decides to sleep with him) and also teases her that she hasn't "gotten any" in awhile; Holly accuses Messer of using Sophie as a perk to pick up women; The child services woman shows up unannounced and accuses Holly and Messer of having sex. They admit to it, and she warns them that sex could ruin their relationship since they're not married; We see Sam and Holly kiss some and later some passionate kissing between Holly and Messer. There may be some additional sexually-related dialog.
Vulgarity/Language: 2 whispered "f" words, about 3 "s" words, 5 "*ssh*le" (1 mouthed, 1 written), 1 "J-sus," 3 uses of "laid," 1 "d*ck," 13 uses of the "a" word, 5 "h*ll," 1 "d*mn," 25 uses of "Oh my G-d," 14 "G-d" (And Messer seems to give Holly double middle-fingers at one point)
Alcohol/Drugs: Messer drinks beer on several occasions in the film while we see people at parties and a wedding having drinks; Peter confronts two teen boys who delivered an inflatable castle to Sophie's birthday party and asks if the kids are stoned. One kid produces a small bag of pot and begs not to get in trouble because "my dad's a pastor." Peter then tells Messer that he and his wife like to actually use the pot they obtain from teens like that once a year; Messer shows Holly that he found Peter's small marijuana stash and tells her they should smoke it. They don't, but they do end up baking the pot into a brownie mix and eat several of the brownies. We then see them sitting watching childrens' shows while stoned. We later see them trying to sober up when company arrives; Holly gets drunk on wine when after Sophie's doctor tells her to (to help her unwind). We see her stumbling around and speaking her mind freely while intoxicated.
Blood/Gore: None (Except for a little bit of baby poop on Holly's face at once point)
Violence: We hear that two adults died in a car accident, but we don't see the accident or the aftermath; Messer accidentally drops Sophie while trying to put her in a baby harness, but she's fine; While trying to learn to ride a motorcycle, Holly accidentally causes it to drive, unmanned, across the street and crash into a pole, before then being crushed by a passing bus; Holly smacks Janine's hand when she reaches for a brownie that was baked with pot in it
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.