Compromise. That's what 'Life As We Know It' is ostensibly about, but from its far-fetched premise on down, it's a potentially touching drama compromised by rom-com routine and defined by the type of sparks that rocks give off when clashed together often enough.
Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Messer (Josh Duhamel), respective best friends of Alison (Christina Hendricks) and Peter (Hayes MacArthur) and complete opposites otherwise, find themselves bound together by the burden of caring for that couple's young daughter, Sophie (the equally adorable Clagett triplets), when they die in a car crash. Forget that Holly owns and runs her own business. Never mind Messer's perpetual bachelor lifestyle. The couple's final wishes -- in addition to an overwhelming sense of guilt and a conveniently covered mortgage -- dictate that these two must live under the same roof and juggle the plans they had with the duties they now face in raising a kid.
It's hardly feasible that Alison and Peter would never have once shared with their child's godparents these unconventional arrangements that they had made. But if we're willing to roll with that, director Greg Berlanti manages a few touching moments of grief and guilt where these two realize what they'll have to give up if it means keeping little orphan Sophie out of state custody -- and how much that'll interfere with any and all of their best laid plans.
Then come the goofy neighbors, and the shrill black friends, and the pot brownies, and the baby poop, and the baby puke, and the cutesy montages, and the public blow-ups in the second act, and the climactic run to the airport in the third. Writers Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson pull out all the sitcom stops in creating a series of episodic dilemmas for this surrogate couple to tackle, and the rare zinger that does land hardly makes up for the rampant stereotypes among the supporting cast and a general fixation on the scatological habits of infants.
Berlanti does nothing but enable the pedestrian material at every turn and shoot each scene in an insufferable glow, suggesting that maybe Holly and Messer were the ones who died on their disastrous blind date and that the whole film takes place in some alternate-universe Atlanta (an alternate universe where one-time leading man Josh Lucas shows up as "The Other Guy" in the requisite love triangle). When it's not ridiculous, it's reheated, as Heigl's control freak learns to loosen up a bit and Duhamel's stud tries to settle down. Neither is particularly bad at their roles, but given how often they've played them before, there's really no excuse for them to be. They snipe and shout and flirt and plead dutifully, with little chemistry to show for it, and nothing that Berlanti, Deitchman and Robinson offer up would give them any cause to stretch these characters into something resembling real people dealing with real problems, albeit in a very contrived situation.
Even this summer's 'The Switch' took an unlikely, even potentially creepy scenario and infused it with a welcome dose of melancholy and a sense of real-world responsibility. That film wore its heart on its sleeve; this one would rather settle for poo on its face.